Multimodal Janelle Monáe Is Her Own Eccentric Revolution

Today, FF2 is proud to celebrate singer, rapper, songwriter, actor, activist, and fashion icon, Janelle Monáe. On this day last year, Janelle released their fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure: a shot of overwhelming joy in an era so often tinged with melancholy. A Black, pansexual, non-binary artist herself, through the album, Janelle invites listeners to celebrate Blackness, queerness, sexuality, and life.

Each track on “The Age of Pleasure” oozes with radical self-confidence and love.

In her review of the album, FF2 contributor Courtney Stanley revealed, “Janelle gained inspiration for The Age of Pleasure through extravagant parties thrown by the Black collective Everyday People… a live music event experience and cultural platform that celebrates Black creativity, global diversity, and safe inclusive space.” This setting of a joyful, sunny party shines through in the album’s construction. Each track oozes with radical self-confidence and love.” 

Welcomed by fans and critics alike, The Age of Pleasure was nominated for Album of the Year at last year’s Grammys. Though the album was widely circulated, as Courtney continues in her review, “The Age of Pleasure era is less about selling sex and going viral for being provocative, and is more about the celebration of being comfortable in one’s own skin.” On this the anniversary of the release of her album The Age of Pleasure, we look back at Janelle’s illustrious career and achievements. 

Click on image to enlarge.

Janelle’s professional career began in 2003 when they self-released their first demo album, The Audition. The early 2000s also saw Janelle catching fire on MySpace, as well as appearing on the albums of already prominent artists. As Courtney explains in her article on Janelle, “During that time, Janelle collaborated with major Southern hip-hop artists such as Outkast and was eventually signed to Bad Boy Records.”

In 2007, Janelle released their EP Metropolis. The conceptual work invited listeners into what would become an extended, built-upon world of Janelle’s. Inspired in part by Fritz Lang’s silent sci fi film of the same name, Janelle’s Metropolis introduces fans to “Cindi Mayweather” (an android in a socially stagnant world). Metropolis, with both its genius, unique concept and thrilling harmonies, instantly garnered widespread attention as well as critical acclaim, with Janelle receiving her first Grammy nomination.

2010’s The ArchAndroid, Janelle’s debut studio album, continues where Metropolis leaves off within the same world. To describe Janelle Monae’s music is charmingly challenging. Courtney calls Janelle’s style “Afrofuturist” and her sound as that which “transcends genre and draws musical inspirations from varied artists such as Prince, James Brown, and Erykah Badu.”

In 2011, Janelle received three more Grammy nominations for her feature on f.u.n.’s hit song “We Are Young.” Two years later, she released her next album, The Electric Lady. Though a continuance of the “Cindi Mayweather” saga, audiences found The Electric Lady just as fresh as the rest of Janelle’s work. It debuted at number 5 on the Billboard 200 list, and won Janelle a spot as a Saturday Night Live musical guest. In 2018, Janelle released her third album,  Dirty Computer. the first album of Janelle’s that does not take place in “Cindi Mayweather’s” universe, Dirty Computer nonetheless represents all of her stunning, futuristic, funky signature style. The album debuted at number 6 on the Billboard 200 list, and won Janelle another nomination for Grammy’s Album of the Year. 

Outside of her work in the recording studio, Janelle is also a very talented and prolific actress.

Outside of her work in the recording studio, Janelle is also a very talented and prolific actress. In 2016, she made her onscreen debut in Moonlight, a “little film” with no “stars” that received EIGHT Oscars nominations in 2017, eventually winning THREE of 2017’s most prestigious Oscars including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. Janelle played the strong, compassionate character “Teresa” opposite co-star Mahershala Ali’s character “Juan,” and among the three Oscars that Moonlight won was a Best Supporting Actor win for Mahershala Ali. 

That same year, Janelle also starred in Hidden Figures, the previously untold, fact-based story of the vital work that three real-life African-American women did at NASA to propel the USA through the Space Race. Janelle co-starred as Mary Jackson (a mathematician and aerospace engineer), alongside Taraji P. Henson (as Katherine G. Johnson). Hidden Figures received three Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as Best Supporting Actress nomination for Octavia Spencer (as Dorothy Vaughn).

By the end of 2017, Hidden Figures had racked up THIRTY-SEVEN WINS (out of 94 nominations) during the 2016/2017 awards season. Perhaps of greatest significance was the outpouring of love from the Black community. Hidden Figures received the NAACP Image Award and was named Best Picture by BET. The members of the African-American Film Critics Association gave Hidden Figures its Best Ensemble award (as did the more mainstream members of National Board of Review and the Screen Actors Guild). Last but not least, FF2’s editor-in-chief — Jan Lisa Huttner — named Hidden Figures her own top pick in a very competitive year that included such favorites as Fences, La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, and, of course, Moonlight.

Since then, Janelle has also had supporting roles in 2018’s fantasy Welcome to Marwen as well as 2019’s dramatic biopic Harriet. In the past couple years, Harriet has also portrayed the leading roles in Antebellum (2020) and, most recently, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. In addition to numerous other honors, Janelle is the recipient of the 2010 Vanguard Award, the 2018 Billboard Trailblazer Award, and the 2014 inaugural Harvard College Women’s Center Award for Achievement in Arts and Media. Janelle is also the founder of her own successful record label, Wondaland Records. In 2022, they published their first book, a book of short stories, titled The Memory Librarian and Other Stories of Dirty Computer. Janelle is currently touring the world on The Age of Pleasure tour.

Janelle’s colorful visions bring to life not only songs or stories, but entire worlds.

Janelle’s creative capacity continues to astound, awe, and draw rave reviews. Her colorful visions bring to life not only songs or stories, but entire worlds. It is Janelle’s eccentric mind which draws us to her—her fearlessness and her unwillingness to conform to any rule or boundary. This inspiring bravery will continue to inform her work—work we can’t wait to see much more of in the future.

© Reese Alexander (6/9/24) – Special for FF2 Media

LEARN MORE/DO MORE

Read Courtney’s Review of The Age of Pleasure here.

Visit Janelle’s website (and grab tickets to their tour) here.

Check out Julia’s 2024 Grammys Coverage here.

Read Lindsy’s review of Hidden Figures here.

Explore Jan’s Favorite Films of 2016 here.

Follow Janelle on Instagram and X here.

Visit Janelle’s Wikipedia page here.

CREDITS & PERMISSIONS

Featured Photo: Janelle Monáe cavorts at Nickelodeon’s 2019 Kids’ Choice Awards in Los Angeles (CA). Photo Credit: Xavier Collin (3/23/19) / Image Press Agency / Alamy Live News. Image ID: T180TN  Note that this image has been photoshopped by FF2 Media to accentuate Janelle’s playful self.

Middle Photo: Janelle Monáe performs onstage during her current 2023-2024 “The Age of Pleasure” tour in San Francisco (CA). Photo Credit: Chris Tuite (10/18/23) / imageSPACE / Sipa USA / Alamy Live News. Image ID: 2T2BHEX Note that this image has been photoshopped by FF2 Media to accentuate Janelle’s sexy self.

Bottom Photo: Janelle Monáe at a screening of her Oscar-nominated film HIDDEN FIGURES at the White House in Washington (DC). Photo Credit: Aubrey Gemignani (12/15/16) / NASA Image Collection / Alamy Stock Photo. Image ID: KRNAE6 Note that this image has been cropped by FF2 Media to accentuate Janelle’s serious self.

Ownership of all original photos retained by Alamy. All Rights Reserved. FF2 Media does not and cannot grant rights to any images owned by Alamy!

Tags: Antebellum, Cindi Mayweather, Dirty Computer, Grammy Nominations, Harriet, Hidden Figures, Janelle Monae, Mary Jackson, Metropolis, Moonlight, National Board of Review Nominations, Octavia Spencer, Oscar Nominations, Pride Month, Screen Actors Guild Nominations, Taraji P. Henson, The Age of Pleasure, Welcome to Marwen

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Reese Alexander is currently a student at Barnard College, where she studies English literature, creative writing, and French. Reese enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction, and her work has been published in multiple campus publications, including Quarto, Echoes, The Barnard Bulletin, and The Columbia Federalist. Reese is most passionate about medieval literature, as she believes it illustrates the contributions of women artists throughout the centuries.
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