Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe

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About Janelle Monáe

From music to Hollywood, Janelle Monáe constantly brings innovative methods of self-expression into their ever-evolving artistry. Born in 1985 in Kansas City, Kansas, Monáe began singing in church, where their family members were musicians and performers. Inspired by forebears Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill, and Prince, the Atlanta-based maverick developed an idiosyncratic style early on with their staple androgynous look and dynamic mix of funk, psychedelia, new wave, soul, pop, and hip-hop. A modern advocate of Afrofuturism and the concept album, Monáe’s 2007 debut EP, Metropolis: The Chase Suite, spawned a series of wide-scoped, cyborg-driven narratives examining identity, oppression, and liberation. This continued on their 2010 genre-hopping full-length debut, The ArchAndroid, and 2013’s R&B-rooted homage, The Electric Lady, with songs like the breakthrough, energetic groove “Tightrope,” featuring Outkast co-founder Big Boi, and the feminist funk anthem “Q.U.E.E.N.,” featuring neo-soul pioneer Erykah Badu. After establishing their star power, Monáe dipped into acting in 2016 with supporting roles in the movies Hidden Figures, about the unheralded Black women of NASA, and the Black LGBTQ+ coming-of-age drama Moonlight, which raised their mainstream profile. The films gave them an expanded platform to embrace their authentic selves with 2018’s hyper-personal and political opus, Dirty Computer, and come out as queer. Monáe highlighted this revelation through the Prince-influenced “Make Me Feel,” about an insuppressible romantic desire. Monáe wrote “Turntables” for the 2020 documentary All In: The Fight for Democracy, encouraging the cultural tilt toward political engagement. “This song doesn’t mean that I’m the leader,” Monáe told Apple Music. “I am simply watching, examining, and wanting to highlight all of the people who are on the front lines fighting. This song is to keep us motivated.” In the wake of publicly coming out as nonbinary in 2022, Monáe shifted gears from sci-fi futurism and politics to Black joy with 2023’s summery song cycle The Age of Pleasure, championing queerness, post-COVID hedonism, and sexual freedom in its breezy Afrobeat and reggae-drenched grooves. “I definitely have had an opportunity to evolve and grow and to tap into the things that bring me pleasure, the things that perhaps I should rethink and rework,” Monáe told Apple Music. “Sometimes it’s saying, let’s get back to the basics and also let’s honor the present.”

Kansas City, KS, United States
December 1, 1985
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