You cannot police me / So get off my areola
April 22, 2015 8:46 AM   Subscribe

Before someone gets in and asks, "do we have to have a Metafilter post every time Janelle Monae does something?" I'll just point out that yes, yes we do [elmer benson]. Metafilter loves Janelle Monae, and now she's back with her "dexterous flow" and fellow musician Jidenna for Yoga, the second single from Wondaland Records's upcoming The Eephus.
posted by katrielalex (44 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
charlamagne is now and forever trash, but i still enjoyed janelle and jidenna's interview on the breakfast club (happened before yoga came out, but discusses the creative process that led to yoga and wondaland's other ongoing projects).
posted by nadawi at 8:51 AM on April 22, 2015

I am in favor of posts about Ms. Monae and love the new video. Thanks for this!
posted by rtha at 8:52 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

The new video is wonderful. Given that I am a prudish person and definitely not the ideal listener for songs about, like, the allure of someone's yoga pants, that's saying something.

Janelle Monae and her collaborators really are creating a new aesthetic that centers women/women of color and that beautifully expresses collective joy.
posted by Frowner at 8:59 AM on April 22, 2015 [8 favorites]

I have nothing to say other then Yes.
posted by The Whelk at 9:11 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

She recently took down a guy just tryin' to help her be a woman correctly on Twitter and it was perfection.
posted by padraigin at 9:12 AM on April 22, 2015 [16 favorites]

And then someone tried to claim that not being for male consumption obvs meant that she was queer and it was the mannest thing that ever manned.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:14 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Get off my areola ola ola is a dance move as well!
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 9:21 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Cool song, but I have to admit I can't tell the difference between this video and one that is made for male consumption.
posted by straight at 9:21 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've watched this like twenty times since Thursday. Jindenna's Classic Man Is a necessary follow up. The clothes! The clothes!
posted by putzface_dickman at 9:21 AM on April 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

If only as a culture we had the attention span for Beyonce to be completely phased out in favor of Janelle Monae, this world would be a measurably better place.
posted by cmoj at 9:23 AM on April 22, 2015

If only as a culture we had the attention span for Beyonce to be completely phased out in favor of Janelle Monae, this world would be a measurably better place.

It's a big culture. There's room for both.
posted by Sokka shot first at 9:27 AM on April 22, 2015 [31 favorites]

what about a world where we get both janelle and beyonce? because that seems pretty awesome. also, it's my impression that monae is friends with the whole knowles family, so she'd probably disagree with you, cmoj.
posted by nadawi at 9:28 AM on April 22, 2015 [9 favorites]

Wish granted.
posted by gwint at 9:34 AM on April 22, 2015

Alex Ferguson, The mister in the great Solange wedding photos is the director for this video and the Jidenna video. He's in the latter.
posted by putzface_dickman at 9:35 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Is the Yoga song/video taking this piss? Is it seriously a paean to yoga and yoga pants and dancing all night? I'm kind of hoping it's the former, and that it's one of those things where making a show of taking something very, very seriously is a way of satirizing how seriously people take it. Because if it's legitimately serious, I guess I don't get it. It's a catchy song, and the dancing in the video is as awesome as ever, but if LMFAO sang the same song, sang the lyrics "Baby bend over, baby bend over / Baby bend over, let me see you do that yoga," I think folks would express nothing but ridicule. But because it's Janelle Monae, it's automatically good? I am conflicted.

It seems a blogger self-named as YogaDork is similarly confused, but ultimately sees it as a "subversive message of female empowerment," which I can kind of see, because that's Janelle Monae's oeuvre.

I don't know. I don't think I'm completely sold.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:37 AM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

janelle is also in one of the wedding photos.
posted by nadawi at 9:40 AM on April 22, 2015

mudpuppie: "It's a catchy song, and the dancing in the video is as awesome as ever, but if LMFAO sang the same song"

Say, maybe this goes back to the idea of production and consumption?
posted by boo_radley at 9:46 AM on April 22, 2015

also I really love the idea of yoga in a crown. Reminds me of Achewood's own Ray.
posted by boo_radley at 9:48 AM on April 22, 2015

There is, at my count, one dude in this video. There are brief shots of butts and almost no cleavage. The women all seem to be partying with each other and happy about it. It reminds me of the scenes of the all-women screaming fans and Dance Apocalyptic.
posted by rtha at 9:50 AM on April 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

I haven't listened to much Monae but what I got out of it was that the world cannot stop bitching about women wearing yoga pants, so here she is saying "yea girls, wear those sexy comfortable-ass yoga pants, bend over and *gasp* show your ass, party on"

Because everyone, everywhere (including here, including other women) cannot stop saying "yoga pants AREN'T PANTS," well, guess what, these women decided they are

I am pretty pro-yoga pants in a world where women's fashion is so damn uncomfortable (and I don't even wear them).
posted by easter queen at 9:51 AM on April 22, 2015 [8 favorites]

I do see this as a novelty song. I understand perceiving this as shlock. But I also see it as (God, kill me) self-aware meta-schlock that could not be more fun.
posted by putzface_dickman at 9:52 AM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Maybe I don't watch enough music videos these days and this is more ordinary now than I realize, but I really like what appear to be Bollywood influences in the music, choreography and direction.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:57 AM on April 22, 2015

Is the Yoga song/video taking this piss?

I can only say what I see in it, but what I notice immediately:

1. Janelle Monae in her usual position somewhat outside the main narrative of the video, playing the "romantic lead" usually reserved for men.

2. Women doing something physical/sexual who are filmed as whole bodies and whose athleticism is centered; an eroticism that is woman-directed or self-directed. (When Monae is looking in the mirror, she's not filmed in the heteronormative way you'd expect, where it would be made clear that she is looking in the mirror in order to double our/men's pleasure and because she eroticizes herself because she's sexy to men.) I think the "call me Dirty Diana" section of the video is really key, because it is calling out and rewriting a bunch of tropes about women performing sexuality.

3. Groups and group joy - that's a feature of just about all her dance track videos, where the camera's gaze doesn't look just at one woman or at one body part and where all the women seem to be having a great time together, where they're acting "enjoying each other's company for its own sake" rather than acting "here are women in a group having a sexy pajama party!!!!" - women in male-gazey videos are usually depicted doing things in groups that women don't generally do, or doing things in ways that they do not generally do them - it's a pseudo-privacy that is intended to frame women's private behavior as spectacle for male consumption.

4. Just, like, it's a very queer video (regardless of who Monae herself actually dates). I think there's this idea that "non-male-gazey" videos basically can't show women having sexual desire, or show women in any erotic way, that women are not supposed to want to see other women's beauty or bodies. It's part of this whole reactive idea about female sexuality - that women are naturally only weakly sexual, and only engage in sexual/erotic behavior for male attention or under compulsion.

5. It feels very welcoming because of its emphasis on collectivity - it invites women viewers (women of color viewers, really - I don't think there are any (or at least only very, very few) white women in Janelle Monae's videos) to feel as if they could participate/belong in the video and feel safe and not creeped on, unlike videos where women can only imagine being one of the women in the video if they also want to imagine being creeped on and sexual objects rather than subjects.

6. It shows a bunch of different women of color in this joyful and collective way, representing women taking pleasure in ordinary physical stuff, being free - representations of freedom are really valuable.

7. Also, honestly, "I want to dance all night, hooray pop music" is an entirely understandable thing to enjoy, but for women it's almost always mixed in with "I have to be skeeved on or depicted in gross and misogynist ways or harassed or made fun of for not meeting normative beauty standards or have my queerness erased or reduced to display for men". "I want to dance all night and it's going to be fun and I will be able to be as sexual or not sexual as I want and it's all safe and okay" is a really positive message. Sure, it's not the Coup or whatever, but unless we're going to have the revolution finished before 6pm tonight it still seems worthwhile.
posted by Frowner at 9:59 AM on April 22, 2015 [53 favorites]

I also agree: "booty shaking" is of course, sexualized and male-gazey in our culture (and coded black), but as Frowner pointed out... that's how women dance! Dancing is a fun, athletic, rhythmic experience, of course it's corporeal and erotic, but it doesn't mean it is for men. It existed before the "male gaze" did, if you want to get technical about the history & apparatus of film and the media eye. When I am dancing for fun with my girls, I shake my booty. When I do yoga... I am aware of my body and to be honest, my sexuality.

So I don't know if that's the exact locus she was aiming for but the idea of doing these athletic, fun, erotic things for one's self and with other women is definitely a fun idea & a cool song.
posted by easter queen at 10:09 AM on April 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

the world cannot stop bitching about women wearing yoga pants

I've... never heard this? All I associate with yoga pants is creepy dudes talking about how much they love them.
posted by saul wright at 11:09 AM on April 22, 2015

I couldn't forgive myself if I linked to any of the google search results for "yoga pants hate" but trust me, it is said a lot, by both men and women. (Also helps if you consider that yoga pants are basically leggings, and surely you've heard the "leggings are not pants!!!!" lamentation.)
posted by misskaz at 11:23 AM on April 22, 2015

yoga pants often get lumped into the "leggings aren't pants!!" bullshit.
posted by nadawi at 11:24 AM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm with mudpuppie. I saw this when it was launched and thought it was gawdawful. Everything about it, but especially the yoga / areola stuff. My second thought was, "Well I guess there's one Monae video that'll never be on the blue."
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 11:24 AM on April 22, 2015

I'm also in the "disappointed" camp. That said, one of the things I really like about Monae is that she clearly makes music for herself, and not necessarily for my consumption.
posted by Slothrup at 11:41 AM on April 22, 2015

I've... never heard this?

Then you are lucky, and probably don't wear yoga pants.

(I should add to my leggings/yoga pants drama comment above that now there is now a thing of Christian women "vowing" to not wear yoga pants, lest they tempt a douche.)
posted by easter queen at 11:59 AM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

unlike videos where women can only imagine being one of the women in the video if they also want to imagine being creeped on and sexual objects rather than subjects.

Which of the two waitresses fawning over Jidenna is the female viewer supposed to identify with?
posted by straight at 12:39 PM on April 22, 2015

Which of the two waitresses fawning over Jidenna is the female viewer supposed to identify with?

That's not really how I read that scene - it's true, it's a weird scene, but it's unfinished, there's no real suggestion that he gets anywhere with either one, they're hardly all over him; my original reading was that we're meant to see them as parodying/performing a sort of ghostly-ideal fantasy woman role which is then totally washed away by the rest of the video. "Look at these women fawn sexily over this dude" is obviously, obviously not the point or the core of the video.

But in any case, honestly, a short interlude doesn't undercut everything else that the rest of the song does, any more than Big Boy's "like a thong in an ass crack" bit in "Tightrope" undercuts the wonderfulness of that song.
posted by Frowner at 12:56 PM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

mep. I love Janelle Monae as much as the next one but this song does nothing for me. :(
Oh well, I guess I'll always have The ArchAndroid.
posted by bigendian at 1:05 PM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think the song is better than the video. My take reading the lyrics is that yoga as a metaphor is used multiple ways. Yoga tends to be a feminine-coded physical space. I think it's also stereotypically a signifier of white affluence. She makes the connection between yoga and dance for dance sake for women, and then in classic Monae style, she flips the dance metaphor to politics in the second verse. Yoga becomes a metaphor for political and economic flexibility.

The last verse spoils it a bit, although the sex described isn't entirely your typical masculine narrative either.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:40 PM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

This is probably my least favorite Janelle Monae song. I love her, but this sounds like something she could write in her sleep.

This may get flagged/deleted as a derail, but…there are non-misogynist reasons to dislike yoga pants and leggings as outerwear. I once lived in an all-female dorm where all of the girls in the dorm wore stretchy pants everywhere all the time. Because of the body-clinging cut of yoga pants and the synthetic material, yeast infections were RAMPANT. The floor I lived on reeked and there were complaints about what one of the employees of the clinic had described as "pubic dandruff". (Just typing that phrase makes me want to throw up in my mouth.) As with everything else, leggings and yoga pants are fine in moderation, but wear them with any frequency and you're on a one-way train to Yeastville.
posted by pxe2000 at 2:18 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think it's a hot song.

Jidenna's verse has a completely different style in the video than Monae's verses, and I notice that Janelle and her party interrupt what seems like a more traditional male fantasy. Also, even in that segment, the two waitresses are dancing for *Jidenna* - they're not performing for *us.* We don't see them represented as disembodied parts. We don't get put in the role of observer/admirer (compare to Wiggle by Jaseon Derulo).
posted by muddgirl at 2:22 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

if it's not your vagina than the yeast infections it might or might not get are really none of your business.
posted by nadawi at 2:28 PM on April 22, 2015 [8 favorites]

My first reaction was to "LOL" but that is not really an indictment of yoga pants-- tights and pantyhose (as well as any overly-tight pants, including skinny jeans) can cause the same problems. I wore leggings and tights all last winter and not a single yeast infection was visited upon me (ah, no pubic dandruff, either).

Nobody is yelling about women and their dumb tights, that I'm aware of, so I think the anger toward yoga pants and leggings has more to do with anger about basicness.
posted by easter queen at 2:50 PM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

i think it all boils down to women's fashion being a thing that everyone thinks they get to weigh in on, and that women should care if a bunch of strangers think she made a silly pants choice. it's much like the whole "men don't like red lipstick/high waisted pants/short hair/too much makeup/etc" - like, ok dude, don't wear any of that stuff but what does that have to do with me?

and of course women enforce these rules too - if the patriarchy didn't have women supporting it, it would have died out long ago. it's a big ole toxic stew and we're all just swimming in it.

which is why it's great i think for people like janelle monae to say, essentially, wear (and do) what makes you comfortable and happy.
posted by nadawi at 2:58 PM on April 22, 2015 [9 favorites]

My read on those lines: "I don't give a fuck that I'm partying in Rio, I'm wearing what I want."
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:32 PM on April 22, 2015

The pants are mentioned once in the whole song.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:33 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Really enjoyed this video; a lot of somewhat subtle, interesting elements that I think Frowner hit really well on. Janelle Monae is a brilliant conceptual/discursive/performance artist who, personally, I increasingly realize does not have a super interesting musical instinct. Which is totally okay! It's all right to be excellent at one thing and kind of mediocre at another.
posted by threeants at 4:45 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I liked the song, both the video and the lyrics. It is one of those seemingly simple songs that is actually more complex (as can be seen in the responses here). Her music isn't what I listen to every day, but I enjoy it when I hear it.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:06 PM on April 22, 2015

Count me in on the "eh....don't really get this or like it too much, even though I normally love JM," sigh. Then again, I'm not into yoga at all even before this.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:19 PM on April 22, 2015

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