Pack it in folks: Janelle Monae and Erykah Badu have won R&B for the month. The rest of you can go home.
The ladies’ new single “Q.U.E.E.N.” is funky, funny and smart. Even better, it’s like three songs in one. It starts as a smooth dance groove, and then when Badu drops in, the beat drops out—giving us a cool jazz experience. And then Janelle comes back at the end for a ferocious rap verse.
In other words: Shake that ass! Now bob your head while you snap your fingers! Now send it home with a fist bump!
But like every Janelle Monae or Erykah Badu song, “Q.U.E.E.N.” is about more than the sonic experience. It’s also got something to say. The lyrics read like a manifesto of the righteously strange, with the ladies insisting they will weather the withering opinions of the majority and continue being themselves. Even if they offend the religious, the conservative, or the chauvinist, they will continue to dance how they want and twerk how they want in the mirror.
But then they go further. In a lot of empowerment songs, women just say they want the right to be dirrty without getting judged. However, in her rap verse, Monae makes it clear that in being strange, she also wants to be a leader. She doesn’t just want to be celebrated for being herself. She wants to help everyone else unleash their identities as well.
Well I’m gonna keep leading like a young Harriet Tubman
You can take my wings but I’m still goin’ fly
And even when you edit me the booty don’t lie
Yeah, keep singing and I’mma keep writing songs
I’m tired of Marvin asking me, “What’s Going On?
March to the streets ‘cuz I’m willing and I’m able
Categorize me, I defy every label
And while you’re selling dope, we’re gonna keep selling hope
We rising up now, you gotta deal you gotta cope
Will you be electric sheep?
Electric ladies, will you sleep?
Or will you preach?”
So what’s it going to be? Are we going to be sheep, or are we going to join Monae and Badu in preaching what we know to be true?
If you ask me, this song is basically a drag anthem waiting to happen. And not just because Janelle says people are “throwing shade left and right” when she walks in the room. Any great drag queen is showing us how to break free of the typical world and create our own identities, and this is a song that understands that. If queens aren’t performing it in the clubs by the end of the month, then they’re just not paying attention.
Previously: This adorable weirdo clearly loves Janelle Monae
Mark Blankenship likes to twerk in the mirror. He tweets as @IAmBlankenship