Friday, October 11, 2013

My Favorite Things: Janelle Monae

My Favorite Things: Janelle Monae

  1. Positioned herself as a musical innovator and role model for current and future generations
    Maintains identity as a Cover Girl, and with consistent positive messages.
  2. Self Produced via Wondaland Arts Society
  3. Maintains Control of Her Image
    Black and White Suit represents Middle Class Roots, Simplifying, and Control of Her Own Sexuality and Brand Identity.
  4. Supported by Major Labels and Artists
    Many musical giants who know the most about the pulse of the music industry have been her earliest supporters;
     IE - Big Boi, Sean (P. Diddy) Combs, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Solange Knowles, Erykah Badu, Migel, Get it? Lol
  5. Constructed a Fantasy World & Invited Us In
    Her imagination is on point and I love it. She's developing this plot cohesively through her concept albums that takes the listener through songs and "emotion pictures" illustrating a futuristic society where droids and humans live together. She uses this framework to rather intelligently focus attention to contemporary social issues, most notably forbidden love. I love following the journey, and with 2 Suites to finish the saga, deeper down the rabbit hole I go!
  6. Not Limited by Traditional Socioeconomic Stratifications
    She's breaking the mold on what we expect our music to sound like, what we expect artists to look like, and our expectations of keeping genres (and love) segregated. Her upbringing doesn't hold her back, she's proving her roots keep her grounded as she dreams up new and greater heights. In interviews she speaks of her great respect for her parents, and how her mom was a janitor and a "wizard" that supported her early recognized passion for performance. There's a saying that "You can't be what you can't see." Janelle not only personally challenges that idea, she is actively becoming an icon fo future generations to follow in her footsteps.

  7. Loves to Dance
    With all the undertones and messages within her music, the resounding message is "The Booty Don't Lie". It kills me that I haven't been able to catch her live in tour yet, but in every video I watched, every review I read, she is exalted for her unparallelled energy on stage. In a world of autotune, and marketing agendas pushing the advancement of the music industry, her genuine passion and talent are a much needed breath of fresh air.
  8. Demonstrates a "This is Who I Am, Take Me or Leave Me" Attitude
    Ms. Monae has gained popularity for her candid manner when discussing her love life. Shes given interviews where she explains she "only dates nice, driven droids", which has contributed to some questioning her sexuality. In art, gender identity and sexuality are understood in layers - that of the artist, inscribed in the art itself, and the interpretation viewer. Though our collective understanding of social justice and the celebration of diversity has greatly advanced in recent decades, these issues are not all together resolved. On Wondaland's blog I was reading their support of Bruno Mars' coming out, and understanding the courage it takes to do so in the music industry, as it has ruined young careers in the past. Some support, others bash, and the topic heats up on sexuality, gender, and morality to the degree the music itself can be lost in the process. I believe the viewer should be allowed to experience the art for themselves, and it should not be entirely dependent on the sexuality of the artist. I love that Janelle avoids the subject for the time being, and I believe it creates the opportunity to for her truly remarkable music to stand on its own merit. Go Janelle Go, #PowerUp
  9. Challenges Contemporary Artists to Step Their Game Up
    As a Business Professional, specifically from the world of marketing, I look with terror on the current state of the music industry. Especially in comparison to truly innovative musical talent that lies a few decades back. Evaluating things through these marketing lenses I've seen gimmicks and creative branding dominate the billboard charts, as people try to cash out on trends and push the shock and sexuality extremes to aggregate sales in a technologically fractured market. The digital age presents opportunities, and it's created challenges for large corporations to turn profits. To compensate for this, image has in some cases become a bigger selling point than the music itself. I love Janelle's image, but she's my favorite artist because I love her music even more. Ke$ha's made talking into a musical genre, and one of the chart toppers right now is truly set to the sound of a bed squeaking over and over and over again.... Really? HERE's your competition music industry - HERE is your challenge. Ms. Monae transforms herself song after song, classic funk rock, R&B, pop, a ballad - constant innovation with high quality instrumentation, vocals, and lyrics - KEEP UP. This is what we want, our generation will determine the future of the music industry as we are the driving force behind sales; so will we accept the mainstream bullshit we're being handed, or demand artist tantalize and inspire us by supporting the artists that do? #DoItWondaland
  10. She's Breaking the Mold for Young Wombyn EVERYWHERE
    As she maintains such impressive control of her own brand identity, she is consciously constructed an iconic image that young girls can try to emulate. With messages of empowerment and inner beauty, I believe she possesses the right skill set and intersection of identities to be one of the foremost inspirations for young wombyn of the Millennial Re(Love)ution #reloveution

Starting Point
So if you're not familiar with Janelle Monae, you should be. If you are, it's a fun thing to talk about because she has so much talent, vision, and drive, and has succeeded in constructing a fantasy world from her own imagination to which she has invited us, the listener. She's from Kansas City, and is the daughter of blue collar workers. In her interviews she talks about her modest start at school in Atlanta, Georgia living with 6 other girls when she started selling CDs out of her house. With strong creative and moral guides, shes a firm belief in independent labels and developing real up and coming talent. Along the way she met and wowed Big Boi from Outkast, after which a new world opened up to her. The more exposure she gets, the more critical acclaim, which has led to huge artists reaching out to both support and work with her. The Electric Lady is her second full length studio album, and it contains Suites IV and V of what is said to be a VII Suite set. I don't know what's next for this self-made icon, but I'm cheering her on, and I hope I can leverage whatever social media influence I may have to contribute to her campaign.

Before I get to the album review, in-depth, song by song, I believe it's always important to provide context. We come from different experiences, and your opinion might not be the same as mine. However, if we attempt to engage in dialogue and align our perceptions we'll find more is accomplished through collaboration than individual conquests. I don't expect us all to agree, but I do expect that within my platforms we show respect for each other's opinions, and use dialogue reflective of a "Safe Zone". We're here to build each other up, not rip ourselves apart. #PowerUp

To fully appreciate this world Janelle has created, I believe we are each being challenged to examine our own perception through this distant yet familiar "classic futuristic world". In her Concept Albums she has created droids as the "other" (ie. sexuality, race, religion), and the setting separates it far enough from modern politics to allow us to emotionally detach and equivocally consider the subject matter. I firmly believe that our perception determines our reality. Therefore if we make ourselves aware of our perception, we can control it, and in-so-doing control our reality. This is a concept I plan on discussing in depth in the coming months, but let's begin by breaking down the way we perceive and engage with art, to give us better insight to this particular masterpiece.

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