Tag Archives: Janelle Monae

Best Albums of 2010 (18-13)

Numbers 18 through 13.  Check em out after the jump.

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On Real Women, Intention, and Nicki Minaj

I watch Nicki Minaj’s videos, like this most recent one:



and I listen to her songs, particularly this new collabo with Eminem:



and I wonder if Nicki is going to admit that the characters are bullshit.

If the song wasn’t called “Roman’s Revenge” there’d be no way to distinguish Roman from Nicki Minaj. Roman Zolanski doesn’t even emerge here as a fully formed persona*. None of her personas do. None of it feels to me like an artist experimenting with persona, so much as an artist who likes to play with inflection was asked why she likes to play with inflection and gave some silly answer that makes her sound more intentional and creative than I think she is.

And now she’s sorta forced to do songs in these voices. But she has not yet figured out how to make these characters distinct enough that the performances feel fluid, or even clash in ways that convincingly portray schizophrenia.

Why not just go for broke and make these characters truly distinct? Give them each their own flow, cadence, point of view. I mean…something.

I don’t know. My girl Alyssa admires what she does visually, but I just see a disgusting orientalism that is even more offensive than when Gwen Stefani was doing it. But it does intrigue me that her visual artistry bests her musical artistry, at least in so far as it feels coherent and complete a statement…of something.

We are in an historical moment where larger than life women (Lady Gaga and Janelle Monae) are more interesting than real women (Chrisette Michelle and Jazmine Sullivan). What bothers me tremendously about that – particularly in the case of black women who just have a hard time if they aren’t jezebels like Beyonce or earth mother soul goddesses like Jill Scott** – is that when you strip away the larger than life part, there just isn’t much there.

It just seems like a bunch of women who grew up watching Madonna and Grace Jones and only saw reinvention, not intention.


*In fairness, Eminem’s Slim Shady persona never felt all that real to me either.  There was a loose distinction between The Slim Shady LP, The Marshall Mathers LP, and The Eminem Show, but nowhere near as great and distinct as I think was intended.  That said, he never pimped this trinity in quite the way Nicki Minaj is pimping these personas.

*To be clear, I’m talking about the image and marketing of these two women. Though Beyonce’s first album was a three-dimensional statement of young black womanhood at the start of the 21st century, the image that was sold was one of a wanton sexual creature. Jill did a whole album that sexualized and humanized her and people hated it.  So I think both women are capable of complicating their personas, but it’s unlikely that the marketplace will notice and respond favorably.

Hot Videos VII

Janelle Monae, Many Moons

I just finished listening to Janelle Monae’s EP a bunch of times. I kinda love it. This video works for me though. I think though that there is nothing electronic about her music (as it has been described to me), this feels very psychadelic P-Funk to me. Very Sleepy Brown. Very Cee-Lo Green. It’s nice to have a sister in the mix. Oh wait – we have had Joi Gilliam for over 14 years.  Silly Americans, how easily soon we forget.

Q-Tip, Gettin Up

Tip is back y’all! I tend to prefer minimalist videos a lot. They allow an artist’s natural charisma and the song to grab you. That is what is at work here. So glad to have the Abstract back in the game.

Usher, Trading Places

I’m endlessly fascinated that Usher’s career hangs in the balance because his legion of black female fans so vehemently hate his wife. What does that even mean? It’s so crazy to me! Here I Stand is the best black pop album of the year, hands down.

That said, this video is just classic, classy ass Usher at his best. It’s tasteful and sexy. And it showcases just how beautifully this man sings. That vamp at the end is breathtaking. Don’t sleep because you don’t like Tameka.