Who Is Janelle Monáe?

By: Rachel Finkle

With the viral release of her new album, Dirty Computer, Janelle Monáe has been rising in popularity as more and more people learn about her through her latest work. It’s like she poured her whole self into the album. While she has found success in her past works, many see Dirty Computer as a long-awaited sigh of relief, the end of a stretch of silence and preparation to be herself.

The album is creative, diverse in sound, and has great visuals that go along with it. It has strong Prince-like influences, with synth, guitar, and upbeat vocalistic styles. Monáe even produced a 48-minute video on Youtube to accompany the album that she has dubbed an “emotion picture.” While this concept has been executed by other artists, think Fall Out Boy’s Young Blood Chronicles, Monáe has truly put her individual twist on it and created something entirely new. The vibe is futuristic, dystopian, and vivid.

“I play a citizen, living life, finding love, being myself in a society where that makes me an outlaw,” Monáe says in an interview for Rolling Stone, “something ‘dirty’ that the society needs to get rid of. I think it speaks to where we are right now, and what we’ve gone through recently as black millennials, and as women, and as Americans.”

Janelle Monáe, from Kansas City, Miss., wears many hats, and only one of them is songwriter. She’s outspoken on her views, beliefs, and identity through her songs. But she’s also an actress and has been featured in the movies Moonlight and Hidden Figures. Monáe is an aspiring playwright, as well, so who knows what we might see from her in the future.

In interviews, Monáe eloquently expresses her feelings on her experiences as a queer, black woman, and she has never been afraid to be herself. She speaks out against racism in America, misogyny, and queer-erasure. She talks about overcoming her insecurities and gives her take on pansexuality, an identity that is often misinterpreted, misunderstood, or dismissed.

“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. This album is for you. Be proud,” she said in Rolling Stone.

Monáe is not afraid to say the unsaid and tell everyone how she’s feeling. That kind of candor is rare and really refreshing in someone in her position of power. She is an artist of all mediums who keeps producing, growing, and testing boundaries, and she will certainly continue making history for the rest of her career.

“I’ve never viewed myself as ‘just’ a musician or singer,” she says in her interview with The Guardian. “I’m a storyteller who wants to tell untold, meaningful, universal stories in unforgettable ways. I want to do it all, study it all and find my place in it.”

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