0:00 Intro 

BILL: “Welcome back to Protest Anthems, the podcast about all things music, social justice, and protest. In this episode, Caroline McHugh discusses Janelle Monae’s 2018 hit song “Make Me Feel”, part of the album “Dirty Computer.” In an interview with Rolling Stone in 2018, ahead of the albums release, Monae addressed her sexuality directly for the first time revealing that she identifies as pansexual. “Make Me Feel” is a celebratory song with the intention to make one feel free—no matter who you are—and to be in charge of your own narrative. Here’s a clip of Monae performing “Make Me Feel” live at the 61st Grammy awards.”


0:38 – tape – Janelle Monae, “Make Me Feel” 61st Grammy’s Performance (0:10-0:55 – time in source)


1:18 – NARRATOR: Janelle Monae has been on the rise as a female black queer artist for the last several years. She came out to the public as pansexual in 2018 and has used her platform and artistic voice to not only speak up for herself but for others as well, those who cannot find their voice or whose voice is not heard. 

She is an artist, an American, who cares about the country and is not afraid to critique things that feel cancerous to culture. Especially when it comes to the rights of those that she loves that are part of her community. She focuses on partnering with people and creating art that is doing work to better society in protection for LGBTQ+ communities, racial injustice, and women’s rights just to name a few. 


2:07 – tape – NPR Terry Gross  (4:50-5:15 – time in source) 

MONAE: “Sure. You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to live in a world where you are the minority, where you are, you know, a part of a marginalized group of people and what happens when those in the position of power strip you of your identity and strip you of the things that make you special and that help make this country special and this world special.”


2:32 – tape – “Make Me Feel” Janelle Monae (0:40-1:14 – time in song)

Play chorus: It’s like I’m powerful with a little bit of tender

An emotional, sexual bender

Mess me up, yeah, no one does it better

There’s nothin’ better

That’s just the way you make me feel

That’s just the way you make me feel

So real, so good, so fuckin’ real

That’s just the way you make me feel

That’s just the way you make me feel 


3:06 – NARRATOR: In her 2018 hit “Make Me Feel”, part of her album “Dirty Computer”, her sexy and groovy song sends a progressive message that she is who she is. It is a sexually liberating, celebratory, bisexual anthem as in the video Monae is flirting in a very fun and empowering way with a man and a woman. 

The song is a flashy mix of modern hip-hop and soul with her own afro-futurist spin. It recalls the stylings of artists before her like Michael Jackson and Prince, with a feeling of raw sensual energy.


3:43 – tape – “Make Me Feel” Janelle Monae (1:14-1:30 – time in song)

You know I love it, so please don’t stop it

You got me right here in your jean pocket (right now)

Laying your body on a shag carpet (oh) 

You know I love it so please don’t stop it


3:58 – NARRATOR: Speaking on gender, Monae is not afraid to take a deep dive into what society does wrong, which is making a cultural spectacle of the bodies of those who are transgender and gender-variant being marginalized. “Make Me Feel”, and the rest of the songs on “Dirty Computer”, are an extension of Monae’s perspective that is constantly affirming of Blackness, womanhood, femme identity, queer people, and the marginalized at large leading to a more inclusive future. 

According to Dr. Nathalie Aghoro, Assistant Professor of American Studies and researcher in the field of social justice, solidarity, and public sphere studies, Afro-futurism is a term used to describe the self-conscious appropriation of technological themes in Black popular culture, particularly that of rap or other hip-hop representations. The genre of Afro-futurism allows Janelle Monae to speak on, present new and innovative perspectives, and pose questions not typically addressed in other genres.


5:07 – tape – NPR Terry Gross (11:14-11:32 – time in source) 

MONAE: “A story behind the song – I mean, I wanted to make sure that if anyone felt like because they saw me in my tuxedo or saw me fully clothed and used me for, like, respectability politics, this was the song that I wanted to piss them off with.”


5:25 – tape – “Make Me Feel” Janelle Monae (1:30-1:49 – time in song)

It’s like I’m powerful with a little bit of tender

An emotional, sexual bender

Mess me up, yeah, no one does it better

There’s nothin’ better

That’s just the way you make me feel…


5:42 – tape – NPR Terry Gross (11:40-11:55 – time in source)

MONAE: “And pretty much, with that album, it was weeding out, you know, folks who tried to place me in their little, safe category, you know? This was the rise of the Dirty Computer.” 


5:55 – NARRATOR: In Dr. Nathalie Aghoro’s research article titled “Agency in the Afrofuturist Ontologies of Erykah Badu and Janelle Monae”, she states that “Afrofuturism counters the pervasive objectification of black bodies with the resistant conception of technologically well-versed and empowered subjects whose becoming takes place beyond oppressive master narratives.” In the context of popular culture, contemporary music performance exceeds the acoustic because it is accompanied by a wide-ranging visual media archive of gendered performances and by the embeddedness of performers in the networks of mass media ecology.

During a 2020 TedTalk given by Jameel Paulin, he discusses Afrofuturism as a form of radical self love. After a violent encounter with police, he struggled to find healing much like many other victims of anti-black violence. He found his answer in defining Afrofuturism for himself.


7:02 – tape – Afrofuturism: A Practice of Radical Self Love | Jameel Paulin (3:35-4:23 – time in source) 

PAULIN: “I would find my answer in Afrofuturism. Now to me Afrofuturism represents much more than simply a subgenre of science-fiction literature or music. Rather I see Afrofuturism as a multi-generational project where artists, writers, thinkers and musicians have transformed the very way that we see and experience the world around us simply by making descendants of the African diaspora the center of their world view. And in my daily life, I use Afrofuturism as a practice of radical self love. A way of living and working where I consistently and intentionally affirm my blackness and my Africanness, from the inside out.” 


7:45 – NARRATOR: Now while Jameel Paulin adopts Afrofuturism through self-love by centering African descendants in his worldview, Monae adopts an Afro-futurist persona, by fuzing the technological with the organic. When she appears on stage and on video in a tuxedo and queer established fashion norms in the music industry, she disrupts the perpetuation of women as a spectacle and instead creates an alternative visual language. In her music and her performances, Monae reflects the will to counter normative determination and to explore her potential as she continuously evolves as an artist.

As an artist and an activist, Monae has used music to help her become the confident and strong black, queer woman she is. Monae uses her music to celebrate blackness, womanhood, sexuality, and so many other social justice topics that others may be afraid to speak out on, or in her case, write songs about. 


8:43 – tape – The Marvelous Janelle Monae Joins Ellen (0:29-0:45 – time in source) 

MONAE: “I feel so honored to help celebrate the often times marginalized. I think it is so important that our stories are not erased because of what society has tried to do in the past to those who are different.” 


8:58 – NARRATOR: Thank you for listening today as we took a dive into Janelle Monae as a black, queer woman, activitst and artist as well as looking at her hit song “Make Me Feel” and the motivation and message behind the music. Monae uses her music to constitute her Afrofuturist artistic persona as a sexually fluid black female who is continually changing and evolving. 


8:58 – tape – “Make Me Feel” Janelle Monae (2:10-2:50 – time in song)

Good God! I can’t help it! Agh!

That’s just the way that I feel, yeah

Please! I can’t help it! 

It’s like I’m powerful with a little bit of tender

An emotional, sexual bender 

Mess me up, yeah, but no one does it better (oh!)

There’s nothin’ better (better) Damn

That’s just the way you make me feel

That’s just the way you make me feel

So real, so good, so fuckin’ real


9:38 – END