This past week, actress/musician/all-together-powerhouse Janelle Monae has returned from the box offices to release geminate singles, “Django Jane” and “Make Me Feel” off her forthcoming narrative album Dirty Computer, out Apr. 27. The songs also arrived with two swaggering music videos.
Monae has always been one to take influence from the decade that gave her life. Listen to “Make Me Feel” and you may prickle at the ghostly echoes of Prince’s 1986 funk-pop classic “Kiss.” This deja vu goes beyond imitation. Before his death in 2016, The Purple One is said to have actually written the songs strutting synth line, along with other contributions to Monae’s upcoming project.
The song’s already canonized video, directed by Alan Ferguson and starring Tessa Thompson, further bolsters the 80s aesthetic Monae ambitions; complete with sultry club light, neon tights and eye patch touting Ziggy Stardust adjacent glam punks.
But what’s most exciting is the unapologetic expression of fluid sexuality within the video’s narrative, furthering comparisons to her and the late “Purple Rain” star. This fluidity is evident in visuals of Monae’s playfulness with both Thompson and an unidentified dude in the club.
Many fans on twitter herald the song as an anthem to the bisexual experience. Some even suggest influence from the 2016 episode of Black Mirror, “San Junipero” a love letter to lesbian romance.
“Django Jane”, a song about celebrating black femme identity featuring the deadpan line “let the vagina have a monologue” is as personal as it is political. In it, Monae speaks to her listener directly, citing her successes without appearing braggadocious as she iconically sits atop a throne in a fitted suit.
Much of the video, directed by Andrew Donoho and Chuck Lightning, stylistically harkens to Monae’s now signature brand of afro-futurism—which has been prevalent in her previous three albums “ Metropolis,” “ArchAndroid” and “The Electric Lady.”
Both the videos for “Django Jane” and “Make Me Feel,” as well as the album Dirty Computer are said to be part of a more ambitious project called ‘Emotion Picture,’ which Monae defines as “a narrative film and accompanying musical album.”
Many see Monae as Prince’s rightful heir due to her penchant for funky grooves and outward expressions of free-spirited sexuality. And she very well may be.
However considering her recent success in award-winning films “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight,” on top of the impressive creative vision of her new singles, it is clear that Monae is far from simply standing in greatness’ shadow.
At 5-foot tall, she’s in the process of carving her own importance—towering, pioneering and unapologetic.
Contact Arts writer Camille Sauers at email@example.com