'The Age Of Pleasure' Is Janelle Monáe’s Love Letter To Her Sexuality & Personal Freedom
Culture & Entertainment

'The Age Of Pleasure' Is Janelle Monáe’s Love Letter To Her Sexuality & Personal Freedom

Call me an enthusiast. An ardent admirer, or simply call me someone who has listened to music before. Regardless of the title you choose to bestow, from the moment I hit play on The Age of Pleasure by Janelle Monáe, I was smiling brightly from ear to ear.

Not the way I smiled when I was dazzled by the “emotion picture” and the futuristic story of a revered android (The ArchAndroid) or grinned alongside the effervescent Electric Lady; and certainly not the way I beamed at the freedom found in one’s old Dirty Computer. No, that one came from being inspired by one’s world-building, one's desire to break away from the mold, and ultimately one’s self-acceptance.

Instead, the vibrant grin I wear now came from an admiration for another’s embrace of their sexuality and sexual liberation. Another, more open, side to love about Janelle Monáe. Although The Age of Pleasure isn’t Monáe’s best album to date, in the end, it's one of the easiest listens I’ve had with music so far this year.

Naturally, the ease and breeze of this album would come from Janelle’s desire to continue her journey of self-acceptance. In her 2018 album, Dirty Computer, the pop singer let her walls down and revealed that she had not only made music for queer people but is a part of the queer community.

With her admission, she put an end to years of avoidance and innuendo and gracefully accepted herself while putting the patriarchy and opponents to rest. This noncompliance paved the way for this perfect, well-timed summer album.

When the album begins, we are reacquainted with the singer as she proclaims she “is not the same” as before. In fact, she has changed into someone who no longer shields herself away from attention but demands it by being scintillating, free.

Learning to gracefully revel in her new variant of audacity, Monáe refuses to place herself back into the closest she had worked so hard to craft her way out of.

Within two minutes of the track, she states that her “epiphanies,” such as embracing oneself despite the opinions of others, have allowed her to feel “light as a feather.” This featherlight liberation is clearly felt in the chorus and throughout the album. Accompanied by a brass-heavy sway, Monáe has learned the art of relaxing.

The album starter, "Float," reminds audience members that the only way to effortlessly glide is to allow oneself the freedom to do so. With this liberation, Monáe reflects someone who is less distorted and less defensive. Instead, we are met with someone who is playful as she believes she is destined to make a lot of money and partake in the activities of luxury and leisure, such as drinking champagne by the poolside ("Champagne Shit"). Another pleasurable moment created by its simplicity.

We are introduced to someone so in love with herself and infected with an unfathomable but welcomed amount of self-confidence that she can't help but feel phenomenal and haute.

The songs "Phenomenal" and "Haute" should be viewed as empowering declarations of her self-awareness and desire to express herself. This self-assurance is appreciated since it demonstrates Monae's development in her readiness to freely praise her beauty and sexuality, something she hadn't been ready to do before her third album.

As the album progresses, the tracks seamlessly merge into one another as Monáe prunes and purrs over each new arrangement. She seductively exhorts women to express their sexuality in her desire to create space and foster revelations about the desire Black women aren't often allowed to explore.

As she forces a bopping sway to the seductive "Lipstick Lover" and delights her assets enough to lose herself in her own wetness in "Water Slide," Monáe becomes more seductive as the audience is guided through different approaches to experiencing pleasure. By the time the album is through, the listeners are both completely satisfied and ravenous for more.

The Age of Pleasure is as enjoyable as it is necessary. Monáe, who is enamored of afrobeat and reggae sounds, takes a risk by making the courageous decision to put her pleasure front and center in a society that frequently tells LGBTQ+ people that their sexual activities are abominable and should never be spoken of.

In a time when queerness is being perceived as more and more horrendous, The Age of Pleasure is an album by a queer artist in a time where queer culture finds itself in another age of distress.

Although it is not her most critically acclaimed, this album is just as important because Monáe is finally allowing the world to see her and her community. It's an album that is not meant to start a political movement, but rather a social one. One that requires people to make space for themselves and the person they've always been.

With the introduction of 252 anti-LGBTQ+ bills this year alone and 75 bills passing (with more to come), Pride Month has been bittersweet for the LGBTQ+ community.

With every conversation drawn in media, another part of the community is being harmed due to another’s fear. Although times are still scary, the road is still long, and acceptance is still hard to come by, The Age of Pleasure offers a moment of reprieve. It offers a brief vacation, a destination where one can bask in self-love, self-compassion, and self-acceptance.

This album provides a moment where one can acknowledge and relinquish their self-censorship in hopes of finding inescapable pleasure.

Call me an enthusiast because I am interested in any form of unabashed self-confidence. Call me an ardent admirer because I am in wonderment of the pleasure Monae finds in freeing herself. Or simply call me someone who has listened to music before because I feel like this is just a preface to a more liberating and open album to come.

Regardless of the title you choose to bestow, and despite the fact that this isn't as thought-provoking as the albums that came before, The Age of Pleasure will undoubtedly teach you the joy of learning how to effortlessly float in the space you've carved out for yourself.

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Featured image by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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