Janelle Monae has been taking steps toward becoming one of the most influential recording artists of our time. Monae’s video “Q.U.E.E.N.” from her second album titled The Electric lady exemplifies her influence on the society where you can be judged for your appearance. This video was a statement declaring her happiness with who she is despite the judgment of others in a society where your image, your cultural values, and what is viewed as acceptable and appropriate behavior is looked down upon.
This video gives a clear idea on how people pass judgment on someone just because of their image. In today’s society, it is more common to be judged for caring about your outside appearance rather than conform to society’s definition of normal. Throughout the video, Monae is wearing black and white. For those familiar with her work, black and white tuxes are her signature look. Instead of the acceptance from her fans, critics judged her look as too masculine, questioning her sexuality. In the song Monae plays with her lyrics saying, “Am I a freak because I love watching Mary? (Maybe)” Conveying if she’s a freak for liking what she sees on a female body. She actually agrees by saying maybe, making light of the rumors surrounding her sexuality. By the way she carried herself, the media and outsiders were not used to someone who dressed the way that she does. In 2013, The Huffington Post interviewed Monae about her signature style. Monae’s response as to why she chooses to express her style through black and white ensembles was that, “It’s a dedication to uniformity and I’m a minimalist by heart, but a lot of it had to do with me wanting to have a uniform like the working class, like my mom and my grandmother.”(Shepherd, 2013) Her modest, yet chic style has been a dedication to her mother and grandmother and shows how she aspires to live or be seen as a hard working individual in society instead of the focus being on her image.
Despite the beliefs and opinions of others, Monae was not afraid to speak her mind. She brought up valid points in the song about cultural values. In one particular line in the song, Monae voiced “Hey sister am I good enough for your heaven? Say will your God accept me in my black and white?” She is very suggestive but doesn’t make you feel bad for your opinion about her. This lets the audience know that she is an open-minded individual and is willing to understand others. She asks that question with sarcasm because she believes that no matter where you come from if we all believe in the same God, you should always be accepted. God accepts everyone; therefore you should be able to accept me. Monae had a vision for all of her music to have a message based on her experiences in life. She clarified in her interview with Billboard Music “I made sure that The Electric Lady had strong themes, so many walks of life and now going out and performing the songs and looking at young girls in the audience being inspired by the album, to tour and know that these stories are really encouraging young girls” (Shepherd, 2013) Despite people’s beliefs, she inspires young girls to be themselves, plus love themselves no matter what people say about them, unlike other artists in the industry. Each song and video had a message behind it. Towards the end of the video, there’s a scene where she is by herself where she wears a suit making a declaration “are we a lost generation of our people”? With that being said, our generation shadows whatever is acknowledged in today’s society than actually appreciating whom you genuinely coexist as an individual.
Along with the cultural values that Monae expresses in her video, behavior that is looked upon as appropriate vs. inappropriate goes hand in hand. Monae voiced her opinion in the song saying, “Is it peculiar that she twerk in the mirror? And am I weird to dance alone late at night?” The frustration in this message conveys how she wants to dance freely like a child at night, but it is not able to because of her age. It is more acceptable for teens or young adults to practice this kind of behavior instead of a grown woman. Monae doesn’t let the opinions of others worry her. She defends herself in the song singing “And is it true we’re all insane? And I just tell ’em, “No we ain’t” and get down.” In this particular line, someone is asking her if the way they dance and the way they act is insane. Her reply is that of course they aren’t. They continue to “get down” despite the ridicule from others. No one can stop her from having fun and being true to the person she is.
The whole video concept was in a living museum where legendary rebels are frozen and Janelle Monae was a notorious leader. There were numerous arguments in the song about image, cultural values and behavior creating a great sense of humor, but was brought up in a way that we can respect Monae’s opinion. One line in her song that stood out was, “Even if it makes others uncomfortable, I will love who I am.” Monae is determined to live her life freely regardless of any restraints created by any social constructions she may face.
Monae, Janelle – Q.U.E.E.N. feat. Erykah Badu [Official Video]. (n.d.). Retrieved
June 13, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEddixS-UoU
Shepherd, J. (2013, June 7). Janelle Monáe: The Billboard Cover Story. Retrieved June
15, 2015, from http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/the-juice/1566282/janelle-monae-the-billboard- cover-story
Shepherd, J. E. (2013). THE RISK TAKER. Billboard, 125(48), 51-54.
Wilson, J. (2013, April 5). Janelle Monáe Honored At Essence Dinner
Party, Explains Signature Black-And-White Style (PHOTOS). Retrieved June 15, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/05/janelle-monae-essence-dinner-party_n_3021450.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular