After creating a lot of buzz for her upcoming album Dirty Computer with the release of its trailer, Janelle Monae upped the ante by also releasing two new music videos last Thursday. Alan Ferguson directed the woman centric, “Make Me Feel” visual starring both Janelle and Tessa Thompson. Visually speaking “Make Me Feel” fits right into the trailer she put out earlier last week. The video follows both Janelle and Tessa out socializing in what seems like a bar/arcade, while Tessa is having fun with other people a brooding Janelle runs into a guy at the bar who helps her take her mind of Tessa, eventually Janelle is caught up between Tessa and the guy from the bar. Both the song and video are fun, vibrant, playful, raunchy and sexy. I think the visual and the actual song show a different side to Monae than most of us are used to. She’s showing us how carefree she can truly be.
While many are in awe of the visual, many cannot get over how much “Make Me Feel” sounds like a Prince song. Well there’s a very good reasoning for that. Aside from Prince being a major influence in Janelle’s life, the beat that we’re hearing was actually made by the legend himself and given to her. A post from his DJ at the time, Lenka Paris details hearing the heavy synth based beat for the first time by Prince and then hearing the same beat on Janelle’s song. Before we begin to criticize the similar sound even more we must also acknowledge that Janelle Monae actually had a relationship with Prince before his passing. In a recent interview with Annie Mac on BBC Radio 1 Janelle shared “Prince was actually working with me on the album with me before he passed to a higher frequency. And helped me come up with sounds, and I really miss him you know, it’s hard for me to talk about him. But I do miss him, and his spirit will never leave me.”
Instead of being so quick to write off the song because it sounds like a bit like “Kiss” by Prince I think we should be grateful that it doesn’t sound bad. The song is very pleasing to the ear. Unlike what some people are plotting on doing to get the Prince sound or touch, Janelle was fortunate enough to have him be apart of her creative process. The best thing about “Make Me Feel” is that it doesn’t sound like anything expected to be on radio all while having a similar sound to a song that’s a little more than two decades old. We shouldn’t deny the influence that Prince has had on Janelle just because its more evident than you would like it to be. To be fair as much as we hold Prince and his legacy near and dear to our hearts, Janelle’s video and song carries on that legacy. There are certain scenes in the video that can be seen in a Prince video before, but at least we all know where the inspiration came from and how good the intention was.
The second song and video “Django Jane” is just as enticing and entertaining as its counterpart. Directed by Andrew Donoho, the video is bold, dramatic, moody, and minimal. Janelle spends much of the video on her throne rapping about her accomplishments, upbringing, hopes, feminism, BlackGirlMagic and even spares a few bars at her naysayers. Once again we are seeing and hearing a different side of Janelle. She sounds assertive, braggadocios, and passionate. Its clear to see that even after five years since her last album release Janelle Monae hasn’t lost her creativity nor has she lost her voice. Sometimes an artist needs to remind the public just who they are and what they have done to get where they are; its never to be humbling but more so a reminder of their talents. For example: Beyoncé’s “Bow Down.” The same “Okay, I see you” feeling I had when first hearing “Bow Down” is exactly how I feel about “Django Jane.”
Dirty Computer has a release date for April 27 and I’m excited to see what else will come from this project. According to the information section on YouTube below both videos Dirty Computer is an emotion picture. Emotion Picture is also defined as a narrative film and accompanying album in the same information tab. All of this may sound like its been done before but I’m very interested in Janelle’s approach. After seeing her in both Hidden Figures and Moonlight last year I am very curious about the film aspect of Dirty Computer. What are your thoughts on the videos? Which one do you like more?