The pansexual power party of Make Me Feel”. From the outside, the house looked like any other Southern McMansion, but the entryway immediately suggested something different. Few stood still. He said, let’s meet tomorrow and let’s talk,” Monáe recalled.
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Monáe’s Dirty Computer is an ambitious, politically outspoken, all-encompassing pop-R&B statement album. Monáe was presenting a preview of Dirty Computer,” her first solo studio album in five years, and the anticipation was as palpable as the smoke filling the room. On an indiscernible cue, an apocalyptic electropop bop about partying in a dystopian world began to play: I hear the sirens calling, and the bombs start falling, but it feels so good.” The women broke into choreographed moves — toe stands, neck rolls, Michael Jackson spins, footwork that summoned the Charleston and James Brown. Many artists now share new music via encrypted downloads, but Monáe insisted on introducing her songs live. After watching her for a few minutes, it became clear why. The room was mesmerized, feeding off the energy emitted by Monáe and her backup dancers. An oversize man in loafers aggressively played air guitar. Others bounced their shoulders, nodded their heads, shuffled their feet in a two-step. Few stood still.
There are some people that I have a really difficult time loving, especially when they are so divisive at the root. For me … you still have to be accountable. You can love somebody, and respect them and empathize with them, but part of loving a person is holding them accountable.
Singer Janelle Monáe Robinson was born on December 1, 1985, in Kansas City, Kansas. Her mother was a janitor and her father was a garbage truck driver who struggled with drug addiction throughout Monáe’s childhood. “I come from a very hard working-class family who make nothing into something,” she says. Monáe’s hardscrabble background and early understanding of the perils of drug addiction inspired her intense drive to succeed.
As the sounds faded, the guests turned their attention to the eight women marching into the bar. Each wore aviators, leather jackets over black bodysuits and brightly colored tights. They struck dramatic poses — an arm flung over an eye, a hand on a cocked hip, a leg held askew — and paused as the singer Janelle Monáe strolled into the room and took her place in the middle. She was dressed in a studded motorcycle jacket over a white crop top, black palazzo pants, suspenders, a derby wool hat and mirrored sunglasses. A navel-length ombré rattail snaked over her shoulder. For a moment, she stood perfectly still, letting the room drink her in.
All of these moments occurring in succession boosted Lizzo’s popularity immensely. Everyone was excited about this new” artist, and her music. Truth Hurts” became especially popular, lighting up the charts while her new album continued to do well alongside it.
Dirty Computer, in many ways, was a siren call to support those who are others, and who are othered. It was Monáe’s most personal work in her career, and, perhaps not coincidentally, also the most celebrated. We are meeting to discuss her journey and her initiatives, yet she is, as she has been throughout her career, redirecting the conversation towards those who are marginalized. To Monáe, there are part of her story, too, and they need attention paid.
Monáe is closing out the year in the studio. There’s not a day that goes by when she’s not surrounded by music, she says, and she’s he midst of reading widely (James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time” and The Great Cosmic Mother” by Monica Sjöö and Barbara Mor currently have her attention) and sketching ideas for visuals and concepts as she plots her next move. When asked what’s in store in the new year, however, Mayweather takes over for the first time in our conversation.
Monáe soon passed a bigger audition, for the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, and headed to New York. She studied musical theater and shared a small apartment with a cousin where she didn’t even have a bed to herself. When she wasn’t in class, she was working.
While other previous singles like Boys” received attention (after being featured in the comedy Booksmart ), Truth Hurts” was still the focal point of Lizzo’s musical catalog. It climbed up the charts and then stayed there. At present, it is tied as the longest-running female rap song at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Monáe is never more relaxed during our time together than when she’s in Kansas City. Her Midwestern drawl comes back as she screams and sings while running into the arms of her cousins, aunts and uncles, many of whom she gets to see only during the holidays or tour stops nearby. At one point, she curls up into her mom’s lap while they look at a homemade poster full of sepia-toned childhood pics. She was a delightful baby,” Auntie Fats recalls.
After dropping out of school, Monáe moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where she lived in a boarding house with five other women and took a job working at an Office Depot. She self-produced a demo CD entitled Janelle Monáe: The Audition and relentlessly toured local colleges to perform and promote her music. It was on one such tour that Monáe met two like-minded young songwriters, Chuck Lightning and Nate Wonder. The three of them soon founded the Wondaland Arts Society, a record label and artists’ collective to promote innovative music and art.
Now well-established in the Atlanta arts scene, Monáe set to work on creating her first full-length album, The ArchAndroid, which was released in 2010. The album continued the sonic journey of Cindi Mayweather, Monáe’s alter-ego, who was born on the Metropolis EP — thanks to the help of her collaborators Nate “Rocket” Wonder and Chuck Lightning. “We love the film industry and everything that’s about creating a big idea, a concept album,” she explained in an interview with The Quietus “We’re into movies, and we wanted to create an ’emotion picture’ with The ArchAndroid, so we did that.” That sounds truly epic.
It mimics the close-knit, constant accessibility of her childhood in Kansas City, with all its artists popping in and out of the space throughout each day to record new music, rehearse for shows and present the final product to the rest of the collective. At one point, the singer-rapper Jidenna shows up, having recently returned from a trip to Africa – everyone immediately starts teasing him about his newly buff physique.
Janelle Monáe Robinson (born December 1, 1985) is an American singer, songwriter, rapper, actress, and producer. She is signed to Atlantic Records, as well as her own imprint, the Wondaland Arts Society.
Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer is an ambitious, politically outspoken, all-encompassing pop-R&B statement album at a time when the existence of such a thing is not a given. Out since April, it’s her tightest album, and it abounds with smooth grooves, classic-sounding rhythm guitar hooks, jokes, puns, and manifestos, all designed to reveal the horror of the current political situation and to establish cheerful solidarity among fans and new listeners. That she should overreach in pursuit of this noble goal is hardly a blunder.
Incorporating an unbelievable range of musical influences, Monáe continues to innovate her own unique sound with her friends in the Wondaland Arts Society – a musical collective of rising artists she oversees An advocate for and member of the LGBT community, she is also a proud supporter of the Ghetto Woman She is an icon in fashion and takes the empowerment of young girls very seriously.
We look at ourselves not as musicians or artists specifically restricted to the music industry,” Monáe says. We’ve always loved film, we’ve always loved TV, and we’ve always loved telling stories. This is an extension of that storytelling and an opportunity to collaborate.
Music critics are predicting “Dirty Computer” will be nominated for album of the year at the Grammys. As for her acting career, Monae just landed a supporting role in an upcoming biopic about Harriet Tubman.
While Monáe was busy killing it in the music industry, movie scripts began arriving in her mailbox. But it wasn’t until 2016 that she made her film debut in the 2017 Academy Award winner for best picture, Moonlight , directed by Barry Jenkins. Monáe starred opposite Mahershala Ali’s Juan in the role of Teresa, who together provide a young Chiron (Ashton Sanders) with a loving space where he is safe from both bullies and his mother’s neglect.
I want young girls, young boys, nonbinary, gay, straight, queer people who are having a hard time dealing with their sexuality, dealing with feeling ostracized or bullied for just being their unique selves, to know that I see you,” Monae told Rolling Stone.
The performance reached its peak on a song called I Got the Juice.” During the chorus — a percussive trap riff that will be best appreciated blasting out of an expensive car stereo — Monáe dropped to her knees below a disco ball as her dancers swarmed around her, fanning her with large exaggerated motions, less to cool her off than to emphasize the white-hot intensity of her moves. While she gyrated on the ground, the women danced around her in a circular Soul Train” line: They did the Milly Rock, spun in tight twirls, snapped their fingers, fanned themselves and their own behinds. As the song trilled its last few beats, Monáe and her dancers slowed, laughing and wiping their brows. The room burst into applause.
Janelle Monaé’s debut album, The ArchAndroid, peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard 200. It spawned the single “Tightrope,” her first hit song. In a cover story for ‘them,’ Janelle Monáe opens up about coming out and how ‘Dirty Computer’ set her free in an interview with Lizzo.
It’s a lovely spacesuit she’s wearing, a form-fitting white NASA artifact complete with a commander” patch on one arm and an American flag on the other. She’s put it on for no reason at all – there are no cameras in sight – as she lounges around Wondaland. The outfit is a remnant, perhaps, of the android persona, known as Cindi Mayweather, that she fed us all these years: a messianic, revolutionary robot who fell in love with a human and vowed to free the rest of the androids.