Pleasure Principle

Janelle Monáe Proves That ‘The Age of Pleasure’ Is Queer and Political

Music superstar Janelle Monáe’s latest album, The Age of Pleasure, is a radical ode to all things that feel good and queer people need that right now. 

On Friday, Monáe, who uses they/she pronouns, released their fifth studio album in five years. The 37-year-old singer has been promoting the album with a variety of live performances, interviews, and music videos, including the titillating “Lipstick Lover”. Sonically, the album is a hedonistic adventure filled with reggae, afrobeats, r&b, jazz, and trap. With features from Ghanian singer Amaarae, actress Nia Long, rap powerhouse Doechii, and music icon Grace Jones, all of the tracks have one thing in common, the need for freedom and pleasure. 

For queer people, seeking out joy, pleasure, and living authentically is like an act of protest in the face of conservatives who seek to take it all away. Monaé seems to think similarly. In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, they discussed how the album was an of resistance, but also how the queer community must find time for joy too. 

“There are a lot of laws being put in place around my trans family and the LGBTQI+ communities and even black folks – you can’t even talk about certain things in school any more,” said Monáe. “Those who are trans, they’re literally trying to erase their existence and not treat them with human decency. So, of course we fight, but even in the middle of the fight we take time to find joy.”

That joy probably exists the most in their visual for “Lipstick Lover”. While lyrics to the song detail Monáe’s affection for a lover’s lipstick-covered kisses, the music video heightens the hedonistic vibes to another level. Essentially, the visual for “Lipstick Lover” is the liberating, Black, queer orgy you never want to leave. 

For Monáe, who describes themselves as a “free ass motherf*cker”, they also understand that they must fight for their freedom and the freedom of the rest of the LGBTQ+ community. The ACLU counts 491 anti-LGBTQ+ bills around the United States and Monáe is using their platform, specifically one that promotes queer authenticity, pleasure, and joy, to fight back.

“I will never sit back and be silent about the injustices that are happening against our trans community,” said Monáe in an interview with NBC News4. “They’re trying to erase our history, which is American history. If we’re erasing history, how are we supposed to correct the mistakes that the past has made and create a better future?”

The Age of Pleasure is out now.

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