Why Janelle Monáe is a Gold Mine for Feminism and Womanism
“Make Me Feel” confronts the topic of sexuality head-on. It showcases Monáe’s fearlessness to celebrate sexual orientation which can not be constrained by rigid definitions. In the chorus, Monáe refers to herself as “an emotional, sexual bender.” The video showcases two love interests, one of whom is actor Tessa Thompson.
In one portion of the video, Monáe is seen running back and forth between each of the love interests, her strides coinciding with the beat. This symbolism gives audience members a glimpse into what it feels like for Monáe to experience her sexuality.
The sound of “Make Me Feel” is noticeably reminiscent of Prince’s music, who Monáe looked to as a mentor. It features elements of electro funk such as synthesized beats. Prince was no stranger to the synthesizer; it is prominently featured in the intro to one of his most famous songs, “1999”.
In “Django Jane,” Monáe powerfully raps her messages through the entirety of the song. Monáe is known for delivering potent and highly political lyrics through rap. For example, she takes on ageism, classism and cultural appropriation in the ending rap verse of her song “Q.U.E.E.N” which features Erykah Badu. A standout moment in the “Django Jane” video is when Monáe turns the spotlight over to “let the vagina have a monologue.” This represents women claiming the power to speak for themselves.
Fans have been highly receptive to Monáe’s rap verses in Django Jane. In response to the song, journalist Omar Mouallem wondered if she had just dropped “the hottest rap verse since Kendrick on ‘Control’.”
Monáe’s music symbolizes the complexity of intersectionality. She consistently uses her songs as platforms for addressing topics of class, race, gender and sexuality. While this is not new for her, “Make Me Feel” and “Django Jane” specifically proclaim that Monáe is proud of who she is and all the aspects that make up her identity. It is through this proclamation that she encourages others to do the same.
Edited by Sydney Hamilton