For this artist page, I chose to focus on my research on singer, songwriter, rapper, actress and producer, Janelle Monáe. Janelle Monáe is an amazing and multi-talented artist who makes an huge impact on our music culture today. In this page, you will learn how she became so successful and how she is impacting lives and music today.
Janelle Monáe Robinson was born on December 1, 1985, in Kansas City, Kansas. Her mother, Janet Monae was a janitor and her father, Michael Summers was a garbage truck driver. Monáe suffered from a difficult childhood due to her fathers drug addiction. Though her fathers addiction was difficult, she still respects both of parents work they put into their jobs. She pays homage to her parents with a signature black-and-white tuxedo she wears for every performance. “I call it my uniform,” she explained. “My mother was a janitor and my father collected trash, so I wear a uniform too.” She was part of the choir in the local Baptist church and started song writing as well as story writing at a young age. She joined Kansas City’s Coterie Theater Young Playwrights’ Round Table and wrote several full-length plays and musicals. One script, completed when she was only 12 years old, told the story of a boy and girl who compete for the love of a plant—an idea inspired by Stevie Wonder’s 1979 album Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants. After graduating from F.L. Schlagle High School in Kansas City, Monáe received a scholarship to study musical theater at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, where she was the only black woman in her class. However, Monáe quickly dropped out of the Academy because she felt creatively stifled. “I wanted to write my own musicals,” she recalled. “I didn’t want to have to live vicariously through a character that had been played thousands of times—in a line with everybody wanting to play the same person.” After leaving New York City, Monáe moved to Atlanta, Georgia where she will take the next big step for her career.
After moving to Atlanta, Georgia in 2001, Janelle Monáe wanted to kickstart her career as singer and songwriter. Once down there, Monáe lived in a boarding house with five other women while working at a Office Depot. While working there, Monáe wrote and produced her first demo titled, Janelle Monáe: The Audition. To get her name out there, she began to tour and perform on college campuses. While on tour, she met Chuck Lighting and Nate Wonder, who were both songwriters. The three founded a record label titled Wondaland Arts Society. This label was created to support innovative arts and music.
In 2005, Monáe got her big break while performing Roberta Flack’s, Killing Me Softly, at a open mic might. In the audience was one of two members of Outkast, Big Boi. He was so impressed by her performance that he later featured Monáe on two tracks, “Time Will Reveal” and “Lettin’ Go,” from the hip-hop group Purple Ribbon All-Stars’ album Got Purp? Vol. II . In 2006 Outkast featured Monáe on two more songs, “Call the Law” and “In Your Dreams,” from the album Idlewild.
After Idlewild’s success, Monáe released her 2007 EP titled Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase). The EP attracted the attention of songwriter and producer Sean Puffy Combs who signed her to his Bad Boy Records label. Monáe’s EP Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase) eventually reached No. 115 on the Billboard Album charts, and its lead single, “Many Moons,” received a Grammy nomination for Best Urban/ Alternative Performance.
In 2010, Monáe released her debut full-length album, The ArchAndroid, which peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard U.S. album chart and featured the singles “Cold War” and “Tightrope.” Based loosely on the 1927 German expressionist film Metropolis, which depicts a dystopian futuristic world, The ArchAndroid is a concept album about a robot named Cindi Mayweather in the year 2719. The album is at once a futurist sci-fi story and an allegory of African-American history. The ArchAndroid received extraordinary reviews and earned Monáe another Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary R&B Album.
In 2013, Monáe released her second album, The Electric Lady. This album did better well than her last album by peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard Top 200. In 2015, Monáe’s record label Wondaland Arts Society announced a collaboration with L.A. Reid’s Epic Records to promote her artists, with the release of Wondaland Presents: The Eephus, which features tracks by Jidenna, Roman, St. Beauty, Deep Cotton and herself.
Recently in 2018, Monáe released her third studio album Dirty Computer which was accompanied by a motion picture. This album was named, Best Album of 2018, by many journals like Time, Rolling Stone, and Entertainment Weekly.
While being a musician is something Janelle Monáe was striving to be, she felt the need to venture out. That’s how she began a career in acting. Monáe stated, “There is power in vulnerability, and I think that it needed to start with me. I was inspired by many movies, some of which I’ve been a part of and the stories I read and people I’ve met; when people shared their stories with me so honestly, it resonated.” In 2016, Monáe made her acting debut in Barry Jenkins film, Moonlight. Moonlight received an Academy Award for Best Picture. Monáe then followed up with a role in Hidden Figures which won a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Motion Picture.
Throughout her career, Janelle Monáe has always been questioned about her sexuality. By paying homage to her parents and following the style influence of the singer, Prince, she was always questioned for her sexuality because of her staple suits. In a previous interview where Monáe was asked about her sexual orientaion, she stated, “”I just live my life, and people can feel free to discuss whatever it is that they think and use whatever adjectives they feel. It’s a free country.” With her release of third studio album, Dirty Computer, Monáe opened up about her sexual orientation and stated she was pansexual. In her Rolling Stone cover story, she stated “Being a black queer woman in America … someone who has been in relationships with both men and women — I consider myself to be a free- motherf**ker. But then later I read about pansexuality and I was like, ‘Oh, these are things that I identify with too.’ I’m open to leaning more about myself.” With her coming forth as a prominent individual who identifies with the LGBTQ community, she inspired many to feel comfortable in their skin and love whoever they feel love for.
Janelle Monáe is an inspirational artist who set out dreams for herself and was able to reach them. Through her music, acting, and leadership, Monáe will continue to be a successful individual. She has many big things coming for herself and will continue to be an influential indiviual that I can envision future success for.
“Janelle Monáe.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 17 Apr. 2019, Accessed May 3, 2019
“Who Is Janelle Monae? Everything You Need to Know.” Facts, Childhood, Family of Singer, Accessed May 3, 2019
Kellman, Andy, and Andy Kellman. “Janelle Monáe | Biography & History.” AllMusic, Accessed May 3, 2019
“Janelle Monae Says Her Film Career Influenced Her Music Career.” Noise11.Com, 14 May 2018, Accessed May 3, 2019 www.noise11.com/news/janelle-monae-says-her-film-career-influenced-her-music-career-20180514.
Melas, Chloe. “Janelle Monae Opens up about Her Sexual Orientation.” CNN, Cable News Network, 26 Apr. 2018, Accessed May 3, 2019 www.cnn.com/2018/04/26/entertainment/janelle-monae-sexual-orientation/index.html.