After listening to Americans by Janelle Monae again, I feel like the song can fit in two distinct lineages in the landscape of music. The first of these being songs that touch on police brutality and general mistreatment of black people from police. This theme comes up in Americans during the first verse where Monae discusses police involved shootings of innocent black people and the death of Sandra Bland at the hands of police. The 2010s saw a spike in songs that talk about this issue because this was the time that this became a prominent topic to discuss and protest against. Some songs that came before Americans that do this in an effective manner would be “How Many” by Miguel and Sandra’s Smile by Blood Orange. Miguel’s protest song came after the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The song asks the question of how many people of color will have to die at the hands of police before changes to the system will be implemented. A lyric that sticks out from his song is “I’m tired of watching murderers get off”. Not only is this lyric prescient to the subject matter at hand, it also reflects some of the lyrics said in Monae’s song. The song in Americans’ lineage is Sandra’s Smile by Blood Orange. This is because the titular Sandra is brought up in Monae’s song with the lyrics “say her name”. This was the first major song to reference Sandra Bland’s death and thus any song that touches on similar ground would be in lineage with Dev Hynes’ song. These songs enhance my understanding of Americans because they lay the ground work for similar thematic details present in Americans, while in Sandra’s Smile’s case adds understanding to a specific moment referenced in Americans.

The second lineage that Americans falls under would be spoken word with a social message. This is because Americans features a spoke bridge that touches on police brutality and the proposed wall from Trump to keep out Mexican immigrants. The first song that came to mind that would be in lineage with Americans would be “Who Will Survive in America” by Kanye West. While this song is featured on Kanye’s 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, it is not actually Kanye on the song. Instead it is Gil-Scot Heron. In this spoken word track, he touches on the past transgressions against black people and America and the theme of the song comes in the title. Heron ponders on the question of Who will survive in America? He wonders whether or not black people can maintain living in a country that has persecuted them. The second song that fits this lineage would be Flawless by Beyonce. This song features a spoken word intro by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from her TED Talk and discusses feminism. This intro touches on how girls are told to shrink themselves because if they get too powerful, they can threaten men. This is relevant to Americans because the second verse discusses the gender pay gap and these two ideas coexist with another. These songs enhance my understanding to Americans because they are both perfect examples are spoken word that portray social messages, while still making sense within the context of the song/album. I feel like Americans’ spoken word bridge executes this idea as well.