Janelle Monae, pop star, burgeoning style icon. Story by Emily Blake.
Pop music is breaking my heart. It seems these days a slick mix + extravagant visual spectacle = success. I love theatricality as much as the next person, and I have been known to crank up the Britney on occasion, but I long for the musicality of The Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds, the raw energy of Joan Jett singing “I Love Rock and Roll”, and the unadulterated hope that runs through me when I hear Sam Cooke croon “A Change Is Gonna Come.” I want to feel something, think something.
Enter Janelle Monae. Her album The ArchAndroid is based around the story of a futuristic society, with androids representing a segregated minority. In the video for the first single “Tightrope” featuring OutKast’s Big Boi, we find our heroine locked in a facility that forbids dancing. (Echoes of Footloose, anyone?) What ensues is one of the most mesmerising videos I have ever watched, both for the quality of performers, but also for its impeccable styling.
Janelle’s signature style, androgyny via retro, is pitch perfect (I spent my second viewing lusting after the incredible, diagonally striped oxfords she sports). It makes you want to dance—oh, to dance like they do—and the excellent storytelling makes you immediately invested. She could as easily be speaking of overcoming bullies at school or societal oppression, and the multitude of meanings makes the track all the more relatable. She executes that magic pop trifecta—she makes you move, think and feel all at once.
The whole album is exceptional from the delicate instrumentation of “Neon Valley Street” to the popfunkrock jangle of “Make The Bus” featuring Of Montreal. Watch the video here, then buy the album here. Your summer jam just got a lot smarter.