Brow Beat

Janelle Monáe’s New Music Video Is Prince Meets “San Junipero”

Tessa Thompson and Janelle Monáe
Tessa Thompson and Janelle Monáe in the video for “Make Me Feel.” Still taken from the video

The trailer for Janelle Monáe’s new album, Dirty Computer, didn’t prepare us for this. Monae dropped two new singles on Thursday, and, to paraphrase one of them, they make us feel so effing good.

First up is “Make Me Feel,” in which Monáe proves why she’s the natural successor to fill the void left behind by Prince’s death in 2016. Not only does the accompanying music video show off Monae’s androgynous style and unbelievably smooth moves, it also quickly turns into a bisexual anthem as Monáe bounces back and forth between male and female love interests, the latter of whom is played by Tessa Thompson. The scenes of the two of them in the club are giving us strong “San Junipero” vibes, especially Thompson’s 80s-inspired hair and wardrobe.

The other song Monáe dropped Thursday is “Django Jane,” which is full of cinematic allusions, including to her own box-office success. (Monáe has starred in Moonlight and Hidden Figures.) “Let the vagina have a monologue,” Monáe raps at one point, over a shot that mimics one from A Fantastic Woman, as Alison Willmore pointed out on Twitter.

Monáe discussed the making of Dirty Computer with Zane Lowe of Beats 1, where both songs originally premiered:

I actually had this title on this concept before my first album The ArchAndriod and it scared me because a lot of the things that I knew that I needed to say were very deep, very personal, from the heart. You know this is an extremely vulnerable album and it took me a while to make it because I’m a self editor. I self edit myself a lot. I’m like I don’t want to talk about this, I don’t want to talk about that.

I had to kind of have people at Wonderland on my team to hold me accountable to it. They were like OK, you said you wanted to make this album before your first album, this is the opportunity for you to just really choose honesty over mystery. I know that there are a lot of things that I haven’t discussed and I think this is the album that you’ll get an opportunity to get a closer glimpse into my mind and into my heart.

Dirty Computer drops April 27.