[pictured: me at a Janelle Monae concert at Dickinson College, 2011]
So you think I’m alone?
But being alone’s the only way to be
When you step outside
You spend life fighting for your sanity
I still remember the day I bought the physical CD of The ArchAndroid by Janelle Monáe. Mannn. So I was on a People to People trip (kind of like GYLC, if you’ve heard of that) and we had about two hours or so in the general Times Square area to ourselves. [Random side-note: This was also the day of the 2010 Ghana vs. USA World Cup match. Lmbo lone wolff] Our group kind of went “off-bounds” (like a block or two) to a Best Buy because one of the guys really wanted to go. I tagged along, not really needing anything, and then I noticed their CDs. (Field day!) Didn’t know what to buy, and then I remembered my gloorious lady, Ms. Monáe. My fascination with her had started a number of months before, when my friend Yasmin introduced me and our group of friends to her music and it clicked that she was the one in Big Boi’s video. I got a few songs from Yasmin and tried downloading any more I could get (be it before Metropolis: Suite I to that present day), only managing to get a few — all of which I played out. So that day at Best Buy I got the album I had been waiting for (almost like Lauryn’s, you know…*pushes shade back into pocket*) and Raymond V. Raymond (only because of “OMG” lol) and I was SET.
Fast forward to a month later — my final year of high school — that album by sister Jane took me through. *tambourine* “Locked Inside” was one of, if not the most played song in my music library, and “Cold War” was a close second that probably overtook #1 several times. I still haven’t managed to articulate (to myself, or on my blog) what that year really was like for me but I was going through this annoying, burdensome stage of disconnect and mild depression, and it was kind of a miracle that I applied to colleges and got accepted into one. Anyway, as has been the case through most of my life, I felt extremely different from everyone around me and Janelle came to save the day. As soon as that album came out, she was my everything. Inspiration, role model, soul twin, spirit animal, articulator of repressed emotions, muse, fashion icon…everything. The only similar people I had before her were Lauryn and India.Arie (*whoop whoop* ride-or-die’s), so when maame came with her natural hair and different sound and misfit-like distinctiveness, I was done looking for my celebrity — you know, the one you reeally want to identify with forever. I don’t have dreads or long skirts like my other soul sisters but Janelle has that spasmic type of quirkiness and artsy edge that is SO “me”. And this was all before she became widely popular (as “Tightrope” caught on a year later) so it really, really felt like she was just mine. Plus, I barely watched TV so it was literally based off of only the album and my collection of pictures of her from the Internet.
Her album was like someone swooping down and penning all of the lyrics for exactly what I was living, just as I was living it. On top of that, her storyline had already captured my heart from the previous EP and I was even more connected to Cindi Mayweather’s life (lol). She wasn’t giving us tired lines about relationships and things we’ve heard before; she was pulling ideas from the sky and writing stories that need to be made into children’s fantasy books one day.
And really, if I didn’t have “Cold War”, I don’t know what I would have done, or do now. I still want to hug her for that video, too.
Thanks for being art, Jane. You showed someone what it can do.
Bring wings to the weak and bring grace to the strong
May all evil stumble as it flies in the world
All the tribes come and the mighty will crumble
We must brave this night and have faith in love
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…