Janelle Monae: Creating Change Through Music
In today’s society people have the potential to have more than one career path. The blend of politics and art has led to a new movement within civilization. This new freedom of expression has led to many artists becoming advocates. They use their music, videos, or artwork to convey crucial messages to their audience. Janelle Monáe is one of those artists, as she promotes progressive ideas within her music. She uses her songs to bridge advocacy and the arts.
Janelle Monae is a Kansas born singer, songwriter, actress, and model. Her mother was a janitor and her father a truck driver. Janelle used music as a way to escape her reality, and it became a major driving force in her life. She has signed to multiple labels, but first became known after the release of her first studio album, The Audition. Soon after, she signed with Sean Combs to Bad Boy Records Label. She received a grammy nomination after releasing her album The ArchAndroid, which was number 17 on the Billboard US Album Chart. Her most recent album, Dirty Computer, was released in April 2018. It is her third studio album, and its arrival also came with a film titled “Emotion Picture”.
Monáe’s, advocacy for minority, female, and LGBTQ rights puts her above other artists. She even goes as far to express her thoughts on these topics in her music. She challenges the idea that singers, or celebrities in one area of work can not be active in another scene. In a Genius interview, Janelle said that she uses music and art as a way to protest and fight back. For instance, she tackles multiple subjects in her album Dirty Computer.
Dirty Computer is filled with multiple songs that are meant to “fight back and protest”. One of these songs is Crazy, Classic, Life. The song addresses racial and gender inequality in America. The lyrics start off with the teachings of John Locke, the same principles that the declaration of independence and the constitution are based on (that all are equal and are born with unalienable rights).The song is a narrative and tells the story of a young white boy and black girl. They make the same mistake, and one goes to jail while the other gets off easy. Janelle raps “Me and You was friends, but to them, we the opposite. The same mistake, i'm in jail, you on top of sh*t. You living life while i'm walking around moppin sh*t”. She describes the way Black people are mistreated, and looked down upon by society. The deciding factor in many cases on who goes to jail and who becomes free (and many times even who lives and who dies) is based off of skin color. Through this song Janelle paints the picture of how differently situations are treated based on things people can not change. In relation to gender inequality, the song tells of how it was easier for the man to be successful in life. It speaks to the current social state of America. It emphasizes how much easier it is for the white man to become something, while women find it hard to obtain success. The scenario could easily be switched to be about sexuality or gender identity and the way people who identify differently than what society perceived as normal are treated in America.
These songs help spark conversation, ultimately helping change the political state of our society
Some of Janelle's other songs that hold an important message are Americans and Hell You Talmbout. In Americans, she challenges the idea of America being for all people. Every verse of the song talks about a different group of people, and their hardships. From the mistreatment of women, to minorities, and the LGBTQ community, she talks about some of the problems that these Americans face. Hell You Talmbout is a protest song in which she list the names of people who were victims of brutality (by the police or racial violence from others) in America. After the song was released, Janelle Monáe and Wondaland asked for people to record and post their own versions of Hell You Talmbout in response. This led to Hell You Aint Talmbout by Vita E. Cleveland, which was written in response to the lack of Black transgender women in the song. Janelle is one of many artists who advocates not only in interviews or conferences, but also in her music. She puts a message in each one of her songs. These songs help spark conversation, ultimately helping change the political state of our society. She is the perfect example of an artist that blends arts with advocacy.