Jun. 8th, 2010

wlotus: (Blackberry)
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wlotus: (Eyes Wide Open)
Janelle Monáe has my brain on fire. For a little while I thought I might be having a celebrity crush on her, but that isn't the case.

The truth is that she inspires me.

She is a 24-year-old African-American woman who is defying the popular definitions of "blackness" in her musical presentation. As a black woman who is old enough to be thrilled by the still too rare appearance of a dark-skinned face in entertainment, yet who is thoroughly tired of the hyper-sexualization of black women in hip-hop culture, I am as refreshed by Ms. Monáe as I am by a cold drink on a hot day. Her style fluidly switches between jazz, classical, pop, electronic, and funk, with only the faintest hint of hip-hop/rap. She dances and dresses in a way that showcases her talent instead of her tits and ass. She speaks proper English, as do the black men she creates music with. When I watched the interviews included on the iTunes LP version of The ArchAndroid, I was proud of and impressed with all of them. Because they spoke intelligently and about topics that did not include "da hood", I could relate to them. That isn't something I can usually say about today's young, black performers.

Even more than being impressed with her presentation, her uniqueness inspires me. She and her partners in music-making are not trying to fit someone else's idea of what music (particularly "black music") should be. They have their own ideas, and they are implementing those ideas without apology or shyness, it seems. That inspires me to continue to do the same with my ideas and my life. And not because I want to "make it to the big time" as they have, but because after an early life of conformity (most of the time, though pieces of the real me still shone through from time to time), I have come to the conclusion life is not worth living, if I cannot live by my own unique convictions and vision and gifts and talents.

I'm trying to find my peace
I was made to believe there's something wrong with me
And it hurts my heart
Lord have mercy ain't it plain to see

That this is a cold war
Do you know what you're fighting for
This is a cold war
You better know what you're fighting for.

~ Janelle Monáe, "Cold War"


Every time I listen to one of her songs--that has been often in the past week, as I have her two albums in almost constant play--I am inspired to be me and to enjoy being me. I enjoy feeling inspired. It makes me feel alive.

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