Sometimes I listen to the Rolling Stone podcast, which I then often end up regretting. I listened to an episode where they said that people my age don’t listen to new music, that they listen to the stuff they liked when they were 15.
I have a hard time believing this is true. Who are all these people listening to Americana, then?
I definitely can’t listen to as much music as I did when I was 15, which means, sure, I’m listening to less new music. But I still love it.
Anyway, the new Janelle Monae song “Make Me Feel” both sounds incredibly new to me and, as intended, like a Prince throw-back to when I was 15. So, I love it.
I had a nagging feeling when watching the video, though, that something more than just a Prince tribute/80s lovefest was going on.
I think that, also, at some level, this is a giant rebuke to “Blurred Lines.”
Songwise, you have the callback to someone else’s classic sound. You have the singing over the catchy rhythm track. There’s the way both songs rely on sounds going down the scale when you’d expect them to go up or going into minor chords when you’d expect them to go into major chords.
In the videos, you have girls in cropped shirts, see-through pants (which, yes, is also a shout-out to Prince in Monae’s case, but I think it’s important for Monae to signal her influences hard and the symbolism can be doing two kinds of work at the same time), tons of focus on women’s crotches, lots of women strutting around.
There’s even a concept of line crossing in both–Thicke’s “Blurred lines,” where he knows you want it, even if you haven’t said, and Monae’s “gender bender,” where it’s not clear who is the object of her desire (everyone!).
But I think the critique comes in the difference. “Blurred Lines” is a song and a video about men telling women what we want sexually. “Make Me Feel” is about a woman proudly proclaiming what she wants sexually.
I just can’t listen to Monae’s song without hearing it as her being “Oh, you want a throwback sounding song about sex? ‘Blurred Lines’ is as good as you can do? Well, here’s what happens when a woman puts her mind to it.”
Which, I think, then ties this song in with the other single, “Django Jane,” where she’s basically like, “boys, it’s time for you to shut up and let the women talk.”