Femme Friday: Janelle Monáe

Femme Friday is a new series we will be doing to show case female musicians and talent.

By Rachel C Lewis 

Last year, 28 year old R&B/funk/Afrofuturistic artist Janelle Monáe  exploded into the music scene with artful performances, dance moves both impressive and adorable and a determination to rock the way that we look at Black female artists.

 Her most recent album, The Electric Lady, was released last fall and features striking tracks that bend genres: a goal of Monáe’s. In the album itself as well as in her performances, which overwhelmingly feature women of color, Monáe blesses the music scene with something very new, very necessary, and very feminist.

In “Q.U.E.E.N”, a song that features fellow WoC and activist Erykah Badu, Monáe continues to challenge oppressive social norms that exist within the music industry and beyond. In an interview with Jeff Benjamin of Fuse HQ, Monáe stated:

"'Q.U.E.E.N.' definitely is an acronym. The "Q" represents the queer community, the "U" for the untouchables, the "E" for emigrants, the second "E" for the excommunicated and the "N" for those labeled as negroid.”

 And Monáe’s challenge to society doesn’t stop there. In an interview with Gillian “Gus” Andrews of i09 in 2010, Monáe stated,  "I feel like I have a responsibility to my community and other young girls to help redefine what it looks like to be a woman. I don't believe in men's wear or women's wear, I just like what I like. And I think we should just be respected for being an individual."

Basically, Monáe is incredible because she embodies what she preaches. When I saw her live last fall, I felt empowered by her very presence. She moves across a stage like she knows she’s worked hard to get there, and she doesn’t want to waste a single second – and she doesn’t. She uses every second to do something, whether she is working to pump up her audience members (who are incredibly diverse) or give a tribute or shout out, as she did when mentioning Trayvon Martin at the show I attended. She knows her power, and she uses it for good.

Janelle Monáe moves like she’s aware of her body, like she’s comfortable in her body and her skin, and, as she encourages her audience members to move with her, she is pulling them into her excitement, her power, her confidence, and her unconditional love.

Edited by Valerie Reich

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