Janelle Monáe, known for creating intricate musical worlds, is releasing her fourth album, “The Age of Pleasure.” Unlike her previous albums, which followed a narrative structure, this album is a personal exploration that reflects the artist’s desire to break free from thematic conventions. Monáe, who came out as pansexual and nonbinary in recent years, has seen her music deepen in scope, encompassing themes of Black queer femme resistance alongside the fight against racism.
“The Age of Pleasure” showcases a diverse range of musical styles, from funk and rap to jazz and soul, and incorporates influences from the Black diaspora. Monáe pays homage to the rich musical history of Nigeria and collaborates with artists such as Seun Kuti, Egypt 80, and CKay. The album embraces experimentation and rejects the pursuit of perfection, reflecting Monáe’s desire to escape the weight of others’ expectations.
While the album’s sensuality and celebration of queerness may appear to overshadow its political and philosophical concerns, tracks like “Champagne Shit” and “Lipstick Lover” serve as a counterbalance to the history of homophobia. Monáe effortlessly blends lyrics about self-love and same-sex attraction with reggae and dancehall beats, creating a sense of joy and liberation.
“The Age of Pleasure” is a departure from Monáe’s previous works, focusing less on narrative and allegory and more on creating a carefree and joyful atmosphere. The album acts as a respite from the challenges faced by humanity, and its celebration of bodily agency and sexual liberation may challenge those who hold more conservative views. However, it is a testament to Monáe’s refusal to be confined to any fixed idea of herself or her artistry.
In interviews, Monáe expresses her desire for personal growth and change, comparing herself to David Bowie. She acknowledges that her code has been updated, allowing her to explore different genres and styles. “The Age of Pleasure” represents Monáe’s journey to let go of anxiety and embrace a new version of herself.
Overall, the album showcases Monáe’s evolution as an artist and her commitment to creating music that brings people together and pushes boundaries. It may deviate from her previous narrative-driven works, but it offers a refreshing and joyful experience through its aqueous grooves. Monáe is transforming herself and encouraging others to do the same.