You’ve more than likely have heard of Janelle Monae in the last year what with her roles in critically acclaimed and Oscar nominated films Moonlight and Hidden Figures, but you’ve probably also seen her before that. She usually sports a tuxedo and a horse mane faux hawk and moves on stage like James Brown. If that’s all you know about her you should prepare yourself then because she is an other worldly android preaching a message of peace and love and she better well explode if the rest of her work this year is as good as the two singles she just released. I know I have been waiting 5 years for some new music and last week Janelle Monae released a trailer announcing her upcoming emotion picture Dirty Computer.
The ultra-transcendent, non-conforming and seemingly from another dimension "Electric Lady" has released 2 new singles with accompanying videos and consider me spent.
One of her most admirable traits is her tenacity and willingness to speak out against social injustices and if you listen to The ArchAndroid beginning to end you get to experience that. Her political songs are inspiring to say the least and even though she wasn’t putting out albums Hell You Talmbout was more than welcome, so if you watch Django Jane understand that she has always been a political artist.
This song is a feminist banger yet has a coolness that is consistent with the energy she puts out, then the visual elevates the experience to a whole other level I wasn’t ready for. The song almost mirrors Jidenna’s Long Live the Chief in that we get more of Janelle rapping and the melody is grittier than her previous work. In the video we see she is still suited up, but with a twist she is beaming in bright and rich fabrics. She brings the balance. Notably her crown is visible and the choreography is simple but impactful and it's no surprise either when her femme posse is tutting in fitted leather jackets and matching gloves and kofias. There’s also this attention to detail she tends to and you see it in her mannerisms when she raps. Fore example when she quips “yeah we highly melanated” she vogues framing her face in that 4 count and it just gives me goosebumps. There is a pretty remarkable point in the video that is already garnishing buzz, I even gave an air fist bump when she proclaimed “let the vagina have a monologue”. However, the moment I was in awe of was the table scene where she asserts women are central to life while the dancers are sipping tea in sync that calls our attention to that message like a teacher raising her hand up! It is a beautiful video, a powerful message and it shows an almost regal side of Monae that we rarely see. After watching that I was on a girl power high and I should also mention this is off the heels of my seeing Black Panther, but then YouTube auto played her next release.
“It’s like I’m powerful with a little bit of tender. An emotional sexual bender.”
I mean I’m alive now, but I was worried for a second because I was hearing Prince on this song and thinking “How did I manage to make it to heaven?”. Of course I know that he was Janelle’s mentor and turns out he even helped gather sounds for this album before he passed away. So on the one hand we have an inspiring message about female empowerment in Django Jane and on the other, well we have another of female empowerment, but more about being sexually liberated and celebrating that in Make Me Feel.
The video is an all around homage. I’m going to level with you. I am a basic Prince fan, I am not well versed in the deep cuts, but I love me some Kiss. This is set in an 80s looking club with androgynous party goers and two versions of Janelle Monae and we see her again elude the usual black and white garb. This is a huge deal because she has stressed she is not here to discuss her sexuality, only that of the android revolution, she comes in peace, but she means business and her clothes have been reflective of that for years. To see this carefree side of her through her fashion as she enters the club is refreshing and exciting.
An alter ego sporting a blonde pixie cut is seen in a suit, but it is loud and busy and fierce and she is commanding, strange and alien. You see a hint of her previous android alter-ego, Cindy Mayweather in her dance moves and her facial expressions and even with her electric ladies dancing behind her. It really is something. To see this other side of Janelle Monae is already amazing and then she’s turning out those familiar and comforting guitar licks throughout. It’s fun to see her dancing with both her male and female love interests and taking a page out of the earlier mentioned Prince video going back and forth between the two, but not out of discord, quite the opposite. I won’t ignore Tessa Thompson’s stunning appearance in this, but I could not get over the insane looks throughout this video. Take her chainmail bodysuit and bejeweled niqab, and those sheer rose trousers for example. I want to know who was responsible for this and thank them for these creative decisions and I’d like to call out of work and continue to process these videos until April 27th when her album is released. I also want to go on record and claim that this year marks the age of the android and may our Q.U.E.E.N. reign on.