What did you expect from Lil Nas X’s highly-hyped VMA performance? Was it him balancing on a horse as it galloped around the stage? What about donning a Subway employee’s outfit to serve paninis to unsuspecting audience members? Whatever it was, it’s likely you didn’t expect him to turn into the shiny frontman of a Tron-like dance troupe in a magical metropolis. Yet that’s exactly what happened with his mystifying performance of “Panini," which took place in a distant, far-off future.
Of course, Lil Nas X is all in for the jokes. He kicked things off with the hint that the record-breaking “Old Town Road” was doing well in the year 2073, thanks to a news bulletin informing viewers that he was working on the umpteenth remix. Then the futuristic setting was revealed, showing a stage that was illuminated in various hues of blue and silver, while Lil Nas X himself wore what could best be described as the mechanical humanoid makeup of a Transformer if an Autobot had to be a disco ball in its spare time.
The cover of his recently released EP, 7, came to life as an enormous array of futuristic buildings and neon lights, similar to the dystopian world of the 1988 anime film, Akira. "Panini" sounds just right in this context and, through the course of the performance, Lil Nas X led the tour through the metropolis with his signature mix of charm and flippant energy that translated through the inventive choreography.
Lil Nas X is having a great year, let alone a great night . He’s nominated for nine different VMAs, eight alone for his massive, record-breaking tune, “Old Town Road.” In the last three months alone, he has had Mariah Carey figuratively passed him torch to, had “Old Town Road” remixed by BTS’s RM, and had his viral anthem about riding horses gallop its way to 19 weeks spent atop Billboard’s Hot 100, making it the longest-running No. 1 in the chart’s history.