Janelle Monae has built her reputation as an artist on her purity. Not sexual purity ( there’s that line in Q.U.E.E.N. about watching Mary) but artistic purity. With her tuxedo-inspired “uniform” and classic R&B sound, Monae was a throwback to “the good old days” of music who sang meaningful soul songs that everyone from tumblr radicals to Tennessee parents could love. Still, despite her highbrow appeal, chart success has eluded her.
On her new song “Yoga” she’s aimed directly at the charts and clubs while managing to keep most of her politics intact. The song showcases Monae’s rich vocals and inventive metaphors in an entirely new context for her career: a silly modern R&B banger where she urges “baby bend over. Let me see you do that yoga.” The production draws from the thriving hip-hop scene of Monae’s hometown Atlanta, and the video features dancing and rocking a crop-top while looking surprisingly at ease in this modern setting.
Still, if Monae is known for anything it’s defying expectations, and her verses on the song prove to be no exception. She sneaks in a line “You cannot police me so get off my areola,” hinting at the growing #freethenipple movement that highlights the double standard of how society sexualizes (and censors) the nipples of men versus women. Even when she’s getting down Monae keeps “one eye open” and trained on the kyriarchy. When will your fave ever?
The singer/rapper Jidenna contributes a forgettable verse, signifying his involvement in Monae’s wonderland collective. “Yoga” is the first song out from the groups upcoming EP Wondaland Presents THE EEPHUS which comes out this summer.