Don’t Call “Make Me Feel” Janelle Monáe’s “Coming Out Video”
There's a moment right toward the end of Janelle Monáe's new Dirty Computer visual "Make Me Feel" where she, flanked by headless feminine bodies, breaks the fourth wall and gives us, her public, the middle finger. If this were any other artist, this move would be some innocuous gesture, but this is Janelle Monáe we're talking about. She uses her art to speak for her, and what she's saying is clear: back off.
Directed by Alan Ferguson, "Make Me Feel" plays out like a fever dream of sexual fluidity, one where Tessa Thompson vies for Monáe's affection just as hard—if not harder—than a gentleman they meet at the club. Like the bird flipping, this narrative for any other artist would be just that: a narrative that's suited for the song. But with Monáe's name attached and the casting of Thompson, some are claiming it's Monáe's way of addressing the speculation surrounding her sexuality. But that is exactly what Monáe is asking people not to do.
In an interview with The Guardian, Monáe defines herself as "sexually liberated" and declines to see the video and "celebratory" song in literal terms. "I’m about being in control of your narrative and your body," she says. "That was personal for me to even talk about: to let people know you don’t own or control me and you will not use my image to defame or denounce other women."
With that in mind, "Make Me Feel" and its video isn't the coming out some are claiming it to be. It speaks to the gray area Monáe ruminates on in The Guardian profile, the eschewing of allowing others to define who you are. Monáe is at a point where she's okay with "not having all the answers" and, perhaps more importantly, not supplying them. Instead, she flips the bird. Don't make her spell it out for ya.