Victoria Monét is stepping into the spotlight. The Sacramento singer has a gift for making sexy yet subversive R&B and pop that challenges social norms around gender, race, and sexuality. And not just as a recording artist: She’s already one of the industry’s most in-demand songwriters and producers, collaborating on standouts by Fifth Harmony, Brandy, Chloe x Halle, and more—even grabbing two Grammy nominations for her work on Ariana Grande’s thank u, next.
She titled this project after the fierce jungle cat—known for lurking undetected until, when you least expect it, they attack. “JAGUAR has helped me build my confidence and feel ready to come out of the shadows,” she tells Apple Music, explaining that she was shy and soft-spoken until she found her place on stage. “A lot of people know me first as a songwriter, but my artistry has always been there. This project allowed me the space and credibility [to explore it].” This collection of songs—the first third of what will ultimately become a three-part project, she says—feels both intimate and grand, with densely layered harmonies, serpentine melodies, and the rich, surprising instrumentation of a live band. Monét is a masterful storyteller who delights in challenging assumptions; “Big Boss” flips a lyrical cliché about catering to the male ego into an empowerment ballad for women to sing to themselves. Similarly, “Ass Like That” flatly rejects our culture’s objectification of the female body: Instead, it’s a workout anthem in which the only person whose opinion matters is the one in the mirror. Read on for her track-by-track breakdown of the project.
“It instantly gives you the feeling of psychedelics and draws you into this other, warping world. A lot of my previous projects are more playful and young, so I felt like this was an opportunity to show my more mature side. When I first played it for my mom, she was like, ‘That's you?!’ She felt like it was a different side of me, a side that people who’ve heard my previous work would be excited to learn about. It’s funky and whimsical and psychedelic. And especially when the strings come in, it really takes you somewhere.”
Big Boss (Interlude)
“It’d be natural to assume this song was talking to someone else, someone you want to make feel good. And it can be that! But it can also be sung to yourself. I imagine myself singing it in the mirror, like, ‘Remember who you are, remember what you have.’ It’s a form of affirmation. It’s not being cocky or conceited. It's just like, ‘This is what I feel about myself and I'm allowed to say it, to be positive about myself.’ Because sometimes, when people say something positive to me, I’ll find a way to negate it. If they say I look cute, I’ll say, ‘Oh, I just woke up.’ Something to make me feel better about receiving the compliment. But sometimes it's important to be like, 'Yes, I am,' or 'Thank you.' You know? ‘Big Boss’ does that in song form.”
“My music is based on stuff that I've had to absorb as a woman, and a lot of women have had to hear—whether in music or in life—men saying things that women would be frowned upon for saying, like, ‘I want to see what your head game like.’ So I felt like it was important for this project to take power back into our hands, to say things that we think about and talk about when women get together. It’s kind of like, ‘Girrrrrl,’ a little gossipy, but it’s also about us saying things to others the way they’re said to us. I also wanted to use double entendres and to make it clever so that if you played it around your grandmother, she wouldn't be like, ‘Turn it off!’ But when you really think about it and read the lyrics, you know there's deeper meaning going on.”
We Might Even Be Falling in Love (Interlude)
“Honestly, this song just felt like a vibe and it made me feel like I was in the '70s. This natural, soulful feeling with soft instrumentation. It’s a window into my more vulnerable side. A lot of the project’s songs are more aggressive, just, like, bluntly aggressive, but this one has a softer side. It feels like a cousin of ‘Dive’ to me. I'm hoping that people will love the interludes enough that one day I can do a project of all of the interludes from JAGUAR and turn them into songs.”
“I honestly don't know where ‘Jaguar’ came from. It wasn’t like I studied the animal. That's why I feel like this song in particular was a gift. It was like a gift from God, just like, ‘Okay, this is just going to pop into your head and give you a nice foundation for what you want to do.’ It ended up sounding really cool and came together in the perfect way. Later on, I brought in a string player and this horn player, Arnetta [Johnson]. I was adamant about finding a Black horn player, and my friend choreographed for Beyoncé and knew one from her Coachella set. He introduced me and I had her come in and sang her my ideas for the horn parts, and then [producer] D’Mile sang to her his idea of the horn part, and then we put those two together to make that bridge, added the strings, and it felt like magic. I want to do that a million more times.”
“We released this song on Juneteenth and during Pride month, and to me, that’s a form of protest. Of standing up for yourself and being outspoken. And I had wondered, like, if I release music that feels celebratory and happy, is that dismissive of everything that we're going through? But the answer I came to was no. After discussing it with my team and people who I care about, I realized that a lot of people don't have this opportunity, so part of my responsibility is making sure that there is representation in these spaces. In my eyes, it’s almost like back in the day when people are walking on the front lines and still singing ‘We Shall Overcome.’ I’m doing it my way. Two Black artists coming together, unafraid and unapologetic about singing their song.”
Ass Like That
“This song just says ‘freedom.’ It says I don't really care about your opinion about the title, about the song, about the quote-unquote radio playability, any of that. I just want to write about a body part that's talked about by other people, and that's a form of taking the power back into our own hands. Because when we look in the mirror sometimes, we check our own ass out. We see if we look good in those jeans. We have goals for our own bodies. I just wanted a song that allows people to have that. Also, I love a good old workout anthem, because I work really, really hard in the gym. I have a trainer, I make sure that I'm eating healthy, and all these things are a daily focus of mine. So I think it was a way of being honest about what I’m going through.”
Go There With You
“This is another song where I wanted to find the vulnerable side of this sound. Something you could really sink into. It feels simple and classic to me, and the guitars add an element that I didn't have anywhere else. After doing Jimmy Kimmel with live guitars, I realized I wanted them to be a part of my stage performance, so I love that about it. It’s also about being realistic. Jaguars can be confident and sexy, but there's still some issues that we're going to want to smooth over. [This song] gives you a nice, realistic window into any relationship, when you’re going through an argument and need to think about the positive and act on that instead.”
“Instead of thinking about this song completing the project, I wanted it to be more of a pathway into part two for when the project completes itself as an album. It feels like a little bit of a cliffhanger to me, ending with the a cappella like that. The first track of part two starts with an a cappella, so it makes a lot of sense when you hear it down the line. But also, ‘Touch Me’ is one of the only songs where you can hear me sing a different pronoun. I say ‘girl,’ I say ‘her.’ It was really important for me to share that and make that statement so that people... I don't think that we get a lot of songs that are directly saying that, especially in a sexual way. I think it's important for music to have that. A lot of times we can make songs applicable to us, but they're not directly being like, ‘This is about a woman.’ It was a nice element to add, and based on a true story. People who have been around for a minute will pick up on that.”