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AT THE DAWN OF THE DANCE APOCALYPSE
July 9, 2013 1:29 PM   Subscribe

Janelle Monae's latest music video/single is a 60s-esque, funkadelic, symbol-heavy, all-white fur and all-female hammer to the head - THE DANCE APOCALYPTIC
posted by The Whelk (117 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
Don't forget the zombies!

(God, I love her.)
posted by Katemonkey at 1:31 PM on July 9, 2013


Wow, she just keeps getting better and better. I love this so much!
posted by troika at 1:33 PM on July 9, 2013


When I read that the "new video is part of a conceptual short film", I realized that Janelle Monae is like the anti-James Franco for me. I want to see every crazy ass thing she wants to do and I want her to do more of them. Like I want to buy Cover Girl cosmetics just to support her commercial existence.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:44 PM on July 9, 2013 [17 favorites]


Is it weird that two of my biggest heroes are her and Mr. Rogers?

It is, isn't it. It's very weird. I can tell. There's something wrong with me.
posted by Naberius at 1:45 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Okay, I'm sold.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:45 PM on July 9, 2013


Ooh, I wonder if that till do for skinny, skinny suspenders what Tightrope did for two-tone oxfords.
posted by looli at 1:46 PM on July 9, 2013


Is it weird that two of my biggest heroes are her and Mr. Rogers? It is, isn't it. It's very weird. I can tell. There's something wrong with me.

We love you just the way you are.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:47 PM on July 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


SO MUCH GREATNESS
posted by sc114 at 1:48 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


As I said in a short attention fan having friend to whom I emailed it:

It's magical all the way throughout, but the genius happens at around 2:15 and then again at the end. I think, at least. I'm still not sure I'm qualified to judge it properly.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:49 PM on July 9, 2013


I know it's straight pop, and maybe I wasn't listening hard enough but it seemed to lack the depth of her previous album. Also decidedly not feeling 'shelang-a-lang-a-lang'. Some very Outkast moments in there too, would not be surprised if that was the Hey Ya! set.

I don't hate it. Neat video, I guess.
posted by sibboleth at 1:52 PM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


The absurd little monologue at the end is so 1984 Prince it hurts. (This is a good thing.)
posted by mykescipark at 1:52 PM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


She's such an versatile singer. The last two minutes of Q.U.E.E.N. is some of the most rewarding stuff I've heard in years.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:55 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Had anyone seen prince lately? Like are 100% sure she didn't just stab him and steal all his power?
posted by The Whelk at 1:55 PM on July 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


GUYS. Prince is on her new album, so yeah.
posted by grapesaresour at 1:58 PM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I want to be Janelle Monae when I grow up.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:02 PM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


I would be interested to hear folks' readings in terms of gender, race and sexuality stuff.

Things that jumped out at me:

1. Initial uneasiness about reconfigured Janelle Monae with her hair down and girlier clothes. On the one hand, I'm a very non-femme person but I used to get a huge kick out of wearing vintage dresses; playing with costume and gender presentation is good. And I hope that it's fun and productive for Janelle Monae. At the same time, I feel like "making her a star" inevitably is going to involve bending her public presentation of gender and sexuality to give more of an impression of straightness and femininity. Noticed a few more T&A shots than in past videos.

I feel like her gender presentation was really interesting and very queer - a lot of the trappings of femininity but worn in a really androgynous/masculine spectrum way. I felt like the shots of her face as she sang were really male-gaze-y, but the way she used her hands was awesome.

2. On the other hand, it's a very queer video in terms of the audience of women, woman-as-star, woman-as-desired-figure, and that's cool. One thing I always love about her videos is how she's always this amazing romantic hero.

3. Mixed feelings about the motorcycles. On the one hand, it's cool to see that power does not have to come from being, oneself, burly and machine-driving; power can come from the ability to command and direct the burly machine-drivers. And it seems like it's about reclaiming some of that "women on the back of the motorcycles as accessories and toys" imagery, and those women are usually depicted as white anyway. On the other hand, I wonder how powerful the embedded "women in skimpy clothing getting onto motorcycles is a male gaze trope" thing is.

Just on a personal level, I have a sad because I loved seeing Janelle Monae with a more masculine-of-center presentation. The official line among radical queers is that masculine spectrum folks get too much love and attention and representation, and I assume that's true somewhere, but it's never been true in my life, and it was really nice to see someone up on stage being all dandily masculine spectrum and amazing.
posted by Frowner at 2:03 PM on July 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


That little wink on the line "kissing friends" is just.....GAAAAAH
posted by The Whelk at 2:05 PM on July 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


wtf?

:D

WTF??!

:D
posted by sexyrobot at 2:06 PM on July 9, 2013


Completely agree with all your points, Frowner; I felt a little pang of disappointment as I've really enjoyed her androgynous presentation.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 2:07 PM on July 9, 2013


Which is funny my read wasn't "less butch" then the tuxedo jacket look, it was that she was kind of terrifying. She's like Janis Josplin having a Galadreiel Tempetation moment, a screaming wailing hurricane of fake fur and hair that looks like it might explode at any moment. This is less Arch Android and more "Primal force of nature here to fuck. your. shit. up."
posted by The Whelk at 2:08 PM on July 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


Phew, just a few hours ago I was feeling all antsy about when her new album was going to come out, then there's this to tide me over. Thank goodness.
posted by zsazsa at 2:09 PM on July 9, 2013


I've been aware of her existence but pretty completely unfamiliar with any of her actual work, and I enjoyed the hell out of this. And apparently I have more-queer/gender-bending stuff of hers to go look for? Well, okay!
posted by rtha at 2:15 PM on July 9, 2013


ShHIIIIIIII~

grapesaresour: "GUYS. Prince is on her new album, so yeah."

IIIIIIIIIIIT
posted by boo_radley at 2:17 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Speaking of earlier, because it isn't available at the janellemonae tag, most recent previously...
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:20 PM on July 9, 2013


oh my gosh, no. don't punch a zombie. :ohdear:
posted by boo_radley at 2:20 PM on July 9, 2013


Which is funny my read wasn't "less butch" then the tuxedo jacket look, it was that she was kind of terrifying. She's like Janis Josplin having a Galadreiel Tempetation moment, a screaming wailing hurricane of fake fur and hair that looks like it might explode at any moment. This is less Arch Android and more "Primal force of nature here to fuck. your. shit. up."

And I mean, this video is really hard to read. I think that's a very plausible way to look at it. I think that one thing that has happened in her videos is that she's developed this just incredibly powerful presence - she's always charismatic in her videos but it's just totally on 11 now. I find that really exciting. It also seems like there's two ways to read this video (I mean, more than two, but...) like, one is where she's got her hair down, is wearing tight clothes, the video has more T&A and that fits her partially into the mold of conventional female performers; the other is that all those things are present but basically everyone is all queer and the audience is women. And those two things exist at the same time.

For me personally, there's this huge tension between excitement over the reconfiguring/reclaiming of "feminine" signifiers (mini-skirts, really tight clothes, long hair, fur, etc) and my lifelong awareness that in many ways a 'reconfigured' femininity is way more socially acceptable than my own seemingly intractable butchness/masculine-of-center gender-non-conformity. (Also some discomfort with what I mentioned upthread, the official queer line that it is masculine spectrum people who are privileged, which is very much not how I experience the world.)
posted by Frowner at 2:21 PM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I mean, she is amazing. She's able to be innovative and intellectual in ways that most women performers do not have the space to be. Even someone really cerebral like Santigold doesn't, I feel, get as much space.
posted by Frowner at 2:23 PM on July 9, 2013


I just spent six minutes and five seconds with my mouth open at my desk, watching Q.U.E.E.N. and oh my god why didn't anybody tell me about her awesomeness? What rock have I been under?!?!
posted by rtha at 2:23 PM on July 9, 2013 [16 favorites]


rtha: "I just spent six minutes and five seconds with my mouth open at my desk, watching Q.U.E.E.N. and oh my god why didn't anybody tell me about her awesomeness? What rock have I been under?!?!"

Welcome. Welcome.
posted by boo_radley at 2:25 PM on July 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


The Q.U.E.E.N. video makes me hope she's the next Doctor Who
posted by dng at 2:26 PM on July 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


The Q.U.E.E.N. video makes me hope she's the next Doctor Who

I would...gee, I dunno, pay good money or sign a petition or do some other fannish yet persuasive thing (and also start watching Dr. Who, a show I've never really gotten into due to the gender stuff) if Janelle Monae were the next doctor. She would be so fucking perfect.
posted by Frowner at 2:27 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, she's femme in this one, but she gets to whip that hair around and flash those wonderful fingers. Damn.
posted by angrycat at 2:29 PM on July 9, 2013


Noticed a few more T&A shots than in past videos.

I'm not sure. There are a lot of tits shown in the clip, but I rarely felt the focus was just on them, rather than just showing her and her band members in action. The camera never lingers, but is on to the next shot. It's women doing, not women being.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:29 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mixed feelings about the motorcycles.

Note: these motorcycles are being driven by aliens.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:31 PM on July 9, 2013


Frowner, I'm certainly not going to claim to be able to explain it as clearly as you, but I think that tension is built in to it for someone who is trying to look at it that way, and I don't want to say that it's "intentional" exactly -- but then I see that not only is Monae looking a very specific "feminine" way (but as his been noted, energetically angry), but then some of the back up singers look sorta like Fly Girls and sorta like a very particular type of 90s R&B "girl group" that I can't quite remember, and then the band is dressed the way they are but sometimes play their instruments like Robert Palmer's "band", and I think that it's very intentional.

And then when I compare it with Monae's other output, and I can't help but think she thought as she performed it, "This one's for the (identify with traditional signifiers) ladies."

But again, I think there's enough happening here that we can all agree to be right or wrong about it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:32 PM on July 9, 2013


Before anyone quibbles, yes, we absolutely need a new metafilter post every time the divine Ms Monae releases anything.

We're talking about nothing less than the future of pop music.
posted by daveje at 2:32 PM on July 9, 2013 [27 favorites]


Tho the actual gaze in the video isn't guys wantin' her, it's the girl fans who are entranced with her awesomeness
posted by angrycat at 2:35 PM on July 9, 2013


I say this as someone who has been a Doctor Who fan for 25 years but who still loves the new series, and who is actually going to the UK on November 23 of this year so he can spend the 50th anniversary on the show's home soil:

As much as I love the idea, this world doesn't deserve Janelle Monae as the Doctor.

(And yes, if somebody makes the comparison that Janelle Monae is Metafilter's new Lady Gaga, I say "good...that proves how much we've grown in the last few years.")
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:35 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nitpicking time.

Janelle Monae's latest music video/single is a 60s-esque, funkadelic

No, it's not Funkadelic at all. It's Outkast, or am I the only one reminded of Hey Ya! now (good god) ten years old, just turned up to eleven?
posted by MartinWisse at 2:36 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


( Gaga's artpop has been delayed forever grrrr.)
posted by The Whelk at 2:39 PM on July 9, 2013


Where do I sign up to put in sweat equity to earn a place in the futuristic society that will surely be founded on the principles of Janelle Monae's teachings?
posted by SugarAndSass at 2:39 PM on July 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's so strange. Besides Tightrope, which I can and have listened to several times in succession, when I put her stuff on my ipod I wind up skipping it every time. Yet every video that's been posted here I've loved the music and the video itself. It's like I can only enjoy her fully as a visual AND musical artist. I've never had that happen before. I appreciate her on every level, but she's captivating to watch.
posted by nevercalm at 2:44 PM on July 9, 2013


Noticed a few more T&A shots than in past videos.

I'm not sure. There are a lot of tits shown in the clip, but I rarely felt the focus was just on them, rather than just showing her and her band members in action. The camera never lingers, but is on to the next shot. It's women doing, not women being.


I'm with frowner. It seemed a lot more mainstream/commercial than her other stuff -- and I'm talking about the video, not the music -- the booty shots, the zombies, ... the music is fun, but the production there was disappointing.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 2:45 PM on July 9, 2013


It seemed a lot more mainstream/commercial than her other stuff -- and I'm talking about the video

It's like you didn't actually watch Q.U.E.E.N., all that stuff is in there as well. What makes that different from this new video, other than that Janelle Monae is now in slightly more feminine outfits?
posted by MartinWisse at 2:50 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I forgot to mention that I love the Max Headroom wink in there.
posted by nevercalm at 2:53 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


She's intentionally played with objectification of women in the past, check out the android characters in Many Moons, where the androids (actual objects!) are made and sold as stereotypical women-as-objects.

I'm really loving that in this video she takes these objectified stereotypes from music videos by men - as mentioned above, the fly girl dancing, the Robert Palmer backup band moves, the girls on the back of bikes thing, the long hair and tight clothes - and then removes all the men and gives you a glimpse of what they're getting up to on their own. There's a bit of a Toy Story "what do toys do when nobody's around" feeling, and it's totally in line with her overarching story bits where the androids make their own culture out of whatever hand they've been dealt and a transcendent humanity of their own comes out of it, with Cindi Mayweather as the figurehead.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:54 PM on July 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


As long as she continues to redeem Motown I don't care that much what she's doing in videos. Good shit as usual. Keep on that tightrope lady!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:04 PM on July 9, 2013


she continues to redeem Motown

Motown needs no redeeming.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:06 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I find her videos so delightfully weird, and I just love her voice. And I say this as someone who hates 98% of contemporary pop and R&B music.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:06 PM on July 9, 2013


That is a great, great, great pop song.
posted by davebush at 3:14 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


As long as she continues to redeem Motown I don't care that much what she's doing in videos.

I'm fairly sure this is just infelicitous phrasing, but redeem are you serious
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:14 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Had anyone seen prince lately? Like are 100% sure she didn't just stab him and steal all his power?
posted by The Whelk at 3:55 PM on July 9 [6 favorites +] [!]


I saw Prince play a rehearsal show this weekend at Paisley Park. After he and the NPG jammed for about an hour, Prince invited us to stay and have a dance party in the soundstage room. The DJ cranked up and, to the best of my recollection, played nothing but Prince and Janelle Monae.

I know it sounds like I'm kidding, but I'm not.

He played a remix of Q.U.E.E.N. on livestream the other night. I think he digs her a lot right now.
posted by elmer benson at 3:17 PM on July 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Wikipedia says she's 5'0" tall, but in her videos she looks like a giant!
posted by mudpuppie at 3:26 PM on July 9, 2013


No, it's not Funkadelic at all. It's Outkast, or am I the only one reminded of Hey Ya! now (good god) ten years old, just turned up to eleven?

No, that was the very thing I was thinking. It's not bad, but it's clearly inspired by "Hey Ya" all over the joint (video imagery, musical style, musical motifs, etc etc etc).
posted by grubi at 3:35 PM on July 9, 2013


She's intentionally played with objectification of women in the past, check out the android characters in Many Moons

That gave me the shivers.

If anyone has links to good interviews (print or video or whatever) with her, please help a n00b out. Thanks!
posted by rtha at 3:35 PM on July 9, 2013


Y'all aren't paying attention. The dudes on motorcycles were the four horsemen of the apocalypse. (Look at the insignia on the back of the jackets.)


And this so needs to be a scene in a Tarentino movie.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:48 PM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Did someone mention Motown?

Janelle Monáe Roskilde Festival 2012 - 9 I Want You Back (Jackson 5 cover)

Note that she doesn't change any of the pronouns in the lyrics. :-)
posted by Asparagirl at 3:56 PM on July 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


What the ...HOLY CRAP.

Janelle Monae can now be folded into Supernatural yessss
posted by The Whelk at 3:58 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, it's not Funkadelic at all. It's Outkast

oh, it's got some outkast vibes, but it's really a "you can't hurry love" beat with strong kwela influences

and it is a bit funkadelic - isn't that george clinton on the motorcycle?

can't get more funkadelic than that
posted by pyramid termite at 4:01 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I want more video or audio released of her performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
posted by Asparagirl at 4:02 PM on July 9, 2013


There's a great version of her doing BaBopByeYa with the Emory Symphony Orchestra.
posted by jason_steakums at 4:06 PM on July 9, 2013


A nice brief interview.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:10 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The absurd little monologue at the end is so 1984 Prince it hurts. (This is a good thing.)

Come now - it's surely more Parliament / Funkadelic - I mean she was riding off into the sunset on a motorcycle with George Clinton for Pete's sake.

I would be interested to hear folks' readings in terms of gender, race and sexuality stuff.

I've always read Janelle Monae, the person, as more of a cipher who is consciously playing a character in all of the videos so far. This video needed a Chick Singer at the center of the stage, so she dressed up like the best Chick Singer character she could be and totally tore it up - that's all. I completely expect to see her more towards the masculine end of the spectrum in the next video, or the one after. I definitely don't read this as "Janelle Monae Gets Sexed Up in Preparation to Sell More Records" as your post seems to fear. On reflection, I am also with jason_steakums in that I think this is more of a deliberate invocation of and commentary on that musical approach than her slouching towards it.

We're talking about nothing less than the future of pop music.

Absolutely. I'm at that age where everyone starts insisting that music used to be so much better back in my day, blah-de-whatever, and I honestly sink into it a lot of times myself and think damn, I'm getting old, when I finally snap out of it. But then someone like Janelle Monae comes along and I'm pretty sure the kids are allll-right.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 4:11 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


George Clinton showing up on a motorcycle in the video doesn't mean the song is particularly Parliament-influenced.
posted by grubi at 4:15 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, I am really digging this a lot.
Thanks.
This is cool Janelle Monáe - Cold War, Live @ Nobel Peace Prize Concert 2011
posted by dougzilla at 4:15 PM on July 9, 2013


I've always read Janelle Monae, the person, as more of a cipher who is consciously playing a character in all of the videos so far.

Just in the few videos I've watched so far, it seems clear to me that she has a deep understanding of subtext and how to manipulate it. Props!
posted by rtha at 4:17 PM on July 9, 2013


I don't hate it. Neat video, I guess.

What's the matter? Your chicken taste like pork? You have triplets instead of twins?
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 4:26 PM on July 9, 2013 [11 favorites]


That was... an experience.

I'm with rtha, I need to dig way more into her stuff. From the couple of videos I've seen, there's that same feeling of world building that you get with Parliament and Sun Ra, and I know I'm missing quite a bit of the subtext.
posted by Gygesringtone at 4:45 PM on July 9, 2013


I definitely don't read this as "Janelle Monae Gets Sexed Up in Preparation to Sell More Records" as your post seems to fear.

The thing is, I am uncertain to what degree I am projecting onto Monae a set of concerns about being a young queer woman of color trying to make it as a musician - an enormously talented and obviously really smart young woman, of course, surrounded by a bunch of enormously smart and talented collaborators. The thing is, I have seen so many, many smart and talented young gender non-conforming people pressured, in ways both subtle and violent, to conform to gender and social norms in order to "be successful". Or really more "in order to be considered for potential success" or even "in order to avoid being anxious about not being considered for potential success". She is just so obviously a wonderful and amazing person with a brilliant political/aesthetic agenda, and I've definitely seen amazing people with brilliant agendas get pushed constantly to make certain parts of their characters smaller and more invisible. I would be very, very surprised if there were not people in the music production background thinking of what a major star she could make - if she didn't act like the wrong kind of queer, if she could be sexed up a little for straight male consumers, if she were just a little bit closer to mainstream expectations. And then I find myself wondering - she's obviously such a brilliant and directed person, but she's also young and it's hard to be a young queer woman of color in the public eye....So I do find myself worrying - because I just adore her music and her stage presence, and I have ever since seeing a video of her at Afropunk with her hair falling down from its pompadour - about all the shitty things that can happen to the young and brilliant once they start to get famous.

On an aesthetic level, I always wonder about various tensions. Capitalism is really clever about recuperating things, and no sooner do you create riot grrl, so to speak, then you end up with "Girl Power!" and "Margaret Thatcher is the sixth Spice Girl!!!" So I feel like there's this tricky line to walk with the whole "I am detourning the tropes and cliches about how women look and dress" business.

But the take-away from all this is that Janelle Monae and her artistic collaborators are made of awesome.
posted by Frowner at 4:48 PM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is the opposite of funk. This is... Glee.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:58 PM on July 9, 2013


This is the antidote to "Addicted to Love", 27 years too late.
posted by not_on_display at 5:32 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I certainly understand the concern. I think we just have to wait and see what she does next to see if this is a direction for her, or one character among many. My hunch (and my hope) is that it's the latter.

The last songs that have sounded instantly like monstrous mainstream-but-actually-good hits to me like this are Hey-ya and Cee-lo Green's Fuck You.
posted by umbú at 5:40 PM on July 9, 2013


This is the antidote to "Addicted to Love", 27 years too late.

I'm sorry to undo all the hard work it must have taken to erase the memory, but...
posted by Sys Rq at 5:40 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is the antidote to that, too.
posted by not_on_display at 5:53 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Made my FUCKING day!
posted by ersatzkat at 6:06 PM on July 9, 2013


I find Monaé quite fascinating. Her EP and first album are such well planned and thought through and executed works of art, I found them astounding from first exposure and continue to come back to them.

She seems to be continuing her journey with this new album. At least the two songs off it I have heard and their accompanying videos continue to explore concepts of appearance and presentation and self-expression outside of expected norms.

I find it interesting that her Wikipedia page links to an article from The Quietus which puts her in the "Afrofuturism" class of musical artist, right next to Sun Ra and George Clinton. I can see how that works, actually, and it's a fascinating lens through which to view what she is doing.

Greatly interested in her next album. She's just so interesting and so much fun!
posted by hippybear at 6:27 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel even more uncool and out of the loop than I usually do; this is the first I've ever heard of Janelle Monae.
posted by zardoz at 6:27 PM on July 9, 2013


The official line among radical queers is that masculine spectrum folks get too much love and attention and representation, and I assume that's true somewhere, but it's never been true in my life, and it was really nice to see someone up on stage being all dandily masculine spectrum and amazing.

Is there some Official Radical Queer Theory Politburo that determines the party line on these things, or just a bunch of people being extremely cruel to each other on tumblr?
posted by strangely stunted trees at 6:48 PM on July 9, 2013


Also, now going back and listening to The ArchAndroid, her thing about dancing and zombies are there right from the very second track.

She's playing the long game, people.
posted by hippybear at 7:17 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is there some Official Radical Queer Theory Politburo that determines the party line on these things, or just a bunch of people being extremely cruel to each other on tumblr?

Surely you know the answer to this question.

(Or really, People Being Cruel To Each Other On Tumblr constitute a terrible Big Other for which we all perform.)

Actually, this song reminds me a bit of "Make The Bus, in terms of mixing up a lot of stuff.

In some ways, the tracks off the new album seem weaker than those off of The Archandroid. I mean, "Tightrope", "Cold War" and "Dance Or Die" - they're just more coherent songs, in my opinion. But they're also (with the exception of "Tightrope") smaller and less ambitious, again in my opinion. They're awesome songs, but I feel like the new songs are trying to integrate a lot of more complicated techniques, more sophisticated aesthetic politics and more densely layered references, and sometimes (like I'm lukewarm on the shalanalalang business) maybe don't quite pull it together.

Also, Janelle Monae has a LOT of voices.

I do think she belongs with Prince and Sun Ra as Afrofuturists; also maybe with Bowie.

As I listen to this song, though, I keep hearing Le Tigre maybe? "Song for Les and Ray", "Deceptacon", "Phanta".

See, the reason Janelle Monae is always so much better than Lady Gaga is that there is this joyous collectivity in her music and her videos. Lady Gaga's videos are always first and foremost about how special and wonderful she is and how everyone needs to recognize this; her videos center her. In Janelle Monae's videos, she plays the romantic hero, but always in this collective context - she's always sharing credit, for one thing, there's always a lot of focus on her band and various dancers. And the way she relates to the audience is always much more integrated.

If I could interview her, I would love to ask her about what she reads and watches, and about the way she centers women in her videos.

Her voice is totally like the kind of imaginary summer we never get in the Midwest, where you wake up and there's something or someone calling to you to go out into the wonderful day.
posted by Frowner at 7:48 PM on July 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


Lady Gaga's videos are always first and foremost about how special and wonderful she is and how everyone needs to recognize this; her videos center her.

Oh, you will LOVE this track off the most recent (but soon not to be most recent) Pet Shop Boys album: Ego Music.
posted by hippybear at 8:00 PM on July 9, 2013


They've performed at the same events, AFAIK never playing together, but if Janelle Monae and Esperanza Spalding ever collaborate on anything? I would EXPLODE from just too too much amazingness.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:20 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


If this is what she's putting out, my fear of sophomore slump from her is reduced significantly.
posted by immlass at 8:25 PM on July 9, 2013


Yeah, not to start any kind of kvetching (POP MUSIC FANDOM IS A BIG TENT COME ON IN) But while I think gaga is super fun and visually interesting and that shop in Barney's was actually very entertaining, Monae is like the future and performing some long German word for total art. Totally get the Bowie comparison. She's unique.
posted by The Whelk at 8:43 PM on July 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm sort of surprised how subtextual people find this video. I get that she's got kind of an interesting thing going diachronically with her gender presentation, but this particular video struck me specifically as part of what I see as a "fucking around on a video set with my friends by putting in whatever sounds cool and having a general ball" mini-genre that had its real pop heyday around the turn of the milennium. It's a bit anti-subtextual in how omnivorous and spontaneous it comes off.
posted by threeants at 8:48 PM on July 9, 2013


I think it's subtextual based on her earlier video releases and statements about her manner of dress and such. It runs directly counter to things she has done and said in the past.

(but it is still mostly black and white, which makes it fit in perfectly with other things she has said)
posted by hippybear at 8:57 PM on July 9, 2013


Also, some people miss it, but the music video for Cold War hangs entirely on the concept of "dear god look at her face and what she does with her face" and it WORKS
posted by The Whelk at 9:12 PM on July 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Plus, this video is part of a larger art project, so people are reading subtext into it cause it's not standalone.
posted by The Whelk at 9:13 PM on July 9, 2013


Also, since Monae trades in narratives from album to album, I assume The Electric Lady is some herald of the apocalypse cause..yeah.
posted by The Whelk at 9:18 PM on July 9, 2013


I only hope the larger art project actually gets made. Holy cow, what a concept.

And yeah, The Electric Lady is just The ArchAndroid in a different guise.
posted by hippybear at 9:19 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, some people miss it, but the music video for Cold War hangs entirely on the concept of "dear god look at her face and what she does with her face" and it WORKS

Yeah, I spent another bunch of minutes with my mouth hanging open while I watched this earlier at my desk.
posted by rtha at 9:34 PM on July 9, 2013


Holy crap. I had never watched the Cold War video before now.

*astounded*
posted by hippybear at 10:05 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just watched four music videos in a row. By the same artist!! Count me in the "have I been under a rock?" camp.
posted by not_on_display at 10:15 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cold War is my absolute favorite song and video of hers.
posted by The World's End at 10:42 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


She has moments of being Screamin' Jay Hawkins's love child. She has his eyes. I find it unsettling and I love it.
posted by the_royal_we at 11:03 PM on July 9, 2013


Weird! Speaking of Screamin' Jay, as you posted that I was checking out Wondaland's site (haven't paid much attention to her Wondaland colleagues and actually the whole enterprise is fantastic) and who do I see on the Halloween post?
posted by jason_steakums at 11:08 PM on July 9, 2013


This is cool Janelle Monáe - Cold War, Live @ Nobel Peace Prize Concert 2011

Dude, Monáe performed Cold War at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert?! That is....I mean... I... I need to lie down for a minute.
posted by LMGM at 12:00 AM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Was that really George Clinton or just lookalike George Clinton?
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:02 AM on July 10, 2013


And people, let me recommend that you read the script treatment linked by hippybear.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:05 AM on July 10, 2013


Sadly, no longer available on Logo's website, but the snatch game episode in season 4 of Ru Paul's Drag Race shows Milan doing a pretty decent Monae impression.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:57 AM on July 10, 2013


I would be very, very surprised if there were not people in the music production background thinking of what a major star she could make - if she didn't act like the wrong kind of queer, if she could be sexed up a little for straight male consumers, if she were just a little bit closer to mainstream expectations. And then I find myself wondering - she's obviously such a brilliant and directed person, but she's also young and it's hard to be a young queer woman of color in the public eye....So I do find myself worrying - because I just adore her music and her stage presence, and I have ever since seeing a video of her at Afropunk with her hair falling down from its pompadour - about all the shitty things that can happen to the young and brilliant once they start to get famous.

I understand your worry but I think you're misunderestimating her and her people and you're seeing things in the video more out of your fears than what's really in it. The thing with Janelle Monea the project is that she's already has the right kind of queerness for a mainstream audience and she's using raw sexuality in the same sort of way that Prince did back in the eighties. All her videos are full of eye candy, of sexy people doing sexy things, but it's never exploitative because they control it and they're a full and conscious part of it.

There's no need to sex her up for a mainstream male audience because the sex is already there and even that audience is sophisticated enough to like it even if it doesn't conform to the stereotypical male gaze sexuality of other pop stars. We've already had Beyonce, Madonna, Lady Gaga after all, there's is this tradition for Monea to work with, exploit and open up.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:08 AM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


All I know is that I want a Janelle Monae of my own. My girlfriend also wants one.
posted by daveje at 2:53 AM on July 10, 2013


daveje: "All I know is that I want a Janelle Monae of my own. My girlfriend also wants one."

ugh, what does that even mean? You want her like some bendy Barbie doll? She is a person, you know.
posted by moody cow at 5:58 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


My commute to work was not long enough for me to listen to all of The ArchAndroid (why yes, I did consider driving a few exits further....) but I am now thoroughly convinced that she is a time- and genre-traveling alien. Thank gods she found us.
posted by rtha at 8:18 AM on July 10, 2013


what does that even mean?

Just flabbergasted admiration and high levels of girl crush.
posted by daveje at 8:22 AM on July 10, 2013


Watch the video for Many Moons, the premise is basically that everybody would like a Janelle Monae of their own.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:30 AM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Janelle Monáe speaks about her experiences of sexism in the music industry and why she will not let others "oppress" her by telling her how to dress or what to look like.
posted by zsazsa at 10:31 AM on July 10, 2013


From that short film script:

THE SONG DANCE APOCALYPTIC BEGINS...

Janelle smiles and shimmies across the stage like James Brown having a heart
attack and sings the first frantic lines of the song, “Going crazy, the hitmen always
find you/Do that dance, smoking in the girls room/Kiss in Franc
e, it’s over like a comic book exploding in a bathroom stall...”

The spinning girls in the band are all dressed in white, Clockwork Orange style...
While on risers on either side of the stage are the W.O.W. Girls (the Women of
Wondaland) acting like pinup funkateers, a funky army of blues women in leather
rockabilly jackets and striped swimsuits, acting a fool, singing background vocals,
stomping and carrying on...

And at the center of it all is Janelle Monáe, their general, the Queen of madness with
her eyes bulging out of her

posted by The Whelk at 10:57 AM on July 10, 2013


I find it interesting that her Wikipedia page links to an article from The Quietus

Fascinating piece.

The head-spinning genre conflation on The Archandroid is the beachhead of Monae's Afrofuturism. Speaking with The Quietus about Monáe, Marlo David, Afrofuturist scholar and professor of Woman Studies at Perdue University, points to the ancient tribal ritual of "playing mas"; a febrile act of spiritual rhapsody which involved assuming multiple guises around the fire. It's the same process that empowers the Afrofuturists to "shift personae in ways that counteract the limitations of identity imposed by the hegemonic gaze of race, gender, class, and religion".
posted by rtha at 11:27 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, am I the only person who saw her with her hair down in this video and thought "Vintage Tina Turner Realness"? Cuz that's what I got from it, and loved it.

Then I remembered "hey, I heard people talking about that QUEEN video a few weeks ago but never got around to watching, let's check it out..." so I did... and... OMG, when the Erykah Badu part kicked in? I melted.

(Far as I'm concerned Beyonce and Gaga can retire - seems like Janelle Monae is everything I wish they were.)
posted by dnash at 8:50 PM on July 10, 2013


I love that the iTunes pre-order link for The Electric Lady has all of the as-yet-unreleased tracks still hidden. No spoilers.

Also, did anyone notice this live version of the title track?
posted by grabbingsand at 9:26 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


grabbingsand: thanks for pointing that out! I've been listening to (and loving) a lower-quality fan-in-the-audience recording of that song for months and have been wishing for a better version.
posted by zsazsa at 9:37 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cod War, as done at the North Sea Jazz Festival.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:40 AM on July 11, 2013


Hrm.

So the YouTube sidebar popped up her complete first self-released album The Audition, which I had not heard before. This is from 2003, people.

Also interesting was this short interview where she talks about working on The Electric Lady. Seems she watched Century Of The Self and was influenced by that as part of the background for the album. Fascinating woman, she is.
posted by hippybear at 8:48 PM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, did anyone notice this live version of the title track yt ?

In case someone in this thread hasn't clicked through, do that. And then click the live video from the same festival for Mushroom & Roses.

After spending the last couple of days watching her videos and listening to her music basically everywhere I go, I don't feel silly saying that she gives me the same feeling I get when I listen to (but especially when I see live in concert) the High Priestess of my religion, Patti Smith.

I can't wait to see Janelle live.
posted by rtha at 10:12 AM on July 12, 2013


Too little and too late, but Sister Sledge. The beat goes on.
posted by breadbox at 6:46 PM on July 13, 2013


Just wanted to let you all know that I've basically listened to nothing but Janelle for three weeks, and I am so in love. I drive to work with her, clean house with her, sit in the backyard with her, ride the bus with her, go for coffee and donuts with her. Amazing.
posted by rtha at 9:28 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


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