Janelle Monáe might have come out with “emotion picture" Dirty Computer this year, but her contributions to music's emotional landscape span well before that. A Sagittarius with a Cancer moon, Monáe can't help but challenge our approach to culture and our philosophy of self. She's been wanting to give us something new to believe in, something to cherish, something out of this world and into the as yet uncharted queer galaxy. This Pride month, I thought it might be fun to imagine some of her more well-known videos and songs (from Dirty Computer as well as The ArchAndroid & The Electric Lady) paired with the 12 zodiac signs.
Aries: "Crazy Classic Life"This is the first song off of the Dirty Computer album, and while there's no single video for it, it's the jump-off for the full-length video compilation. The visuals are neon and nighttime, feasts and fucking around. With lyrics like:
All I wanted was to break the rules like youAll I wanted was someone to love me tooBut no matter where it was I always stood outBlack Waldo dancing with the thick browsWe was both running naked at the luauWe was both on shrooms praying face down, waist downRemember when they told you I was too black for ya?
This song is an ode to being young, rebellious, and free like all Aries were born to be.
This song is about love on the material plane, Venus-driven with romantic devotion and deeply Taurus in its tenacity. The video is all mood lighting and knowing glances. “No one is thinking about the stars above," sings Monáe, “and heaven is betting on us." It's about putting emotions to the test and making something real and true and good out of a private dream. It's an Earth sign song, proud and sensual and made only more sensual by featuring Miguel.
Gemini: "Electric Lady"
On the surface, this song is about putting on a kind of aesthetic fearlessness, a brazen Gemini way of being. “You got the look the gods agree they want to see," Monáe sings while having all kinds of fun with her sisters, “all the birds and the bees—dancing with the freaks in the trees." But, just like Gemini people, this song is so many things at once: a sorority bop, a queer invitation, a love song that privileges communication, an anthem for ladies who contain multitudes and intend on staying limitless. “Yeah, I'll reprogram your mind, come on get in, my spaceship leaves at ten. I'm where I want to be just you and me, baby talking on the side."
Cancer: "Cold War"
An underrated video echoing the visual power of '90s Sinead O'Connor in her “Nothing Compares 2 U" video, it shows Monáe from the neck up with a black backdrop. Although I find it imperative to share with you that both O'Connor and Monáe are Sagittarian, there's something deeply Cancerian about Monáe's version of this video. Perhaps it's the fact that Monáe is a Cancer moon, or perhaps it's because her eyes well up fearlessly, but when she sings, “So you think I'm alone, but being alone is the only way to be," she just looks like she's channeling the most beautiful crab in all the oceans of this universe.
This song is a rebellious summer anthem tailor-made for the summer baby that wants to lead all her friends out to the promised land. That is, if the promised land is a cunnilingus free-for-all, full of hills of undulating booties and tongue-in-cheek labial pants. Casually cool, and self-assured like a cougar out on a Sapphic desert mountain, this song is devoted to re-imagining what eros can be. Sporting tighty-whities barely covering her wild full bush, rolling with a pride of hot femmes, Monáe reminds us how good it feels when fire signs let you warm up by their fire.
Virgo is arguably the most human sign of the zodiac (the other sign being Gemini which is represented by a set of twins—weird—and ruled by air—weirder), and “Yoga" is arguably Monáe's most human song. While most of Monáe's songs plan to take us into outer space, “Yoga" is all about bodily integrity, about bending it but not breaking it. “Yoga" lets us know that Monáe the human is sometimes peachy and sometimes vulgar but no matter what, in true Virgo fashion, she's “too much a rebel" to ever do what she's supposed to.
The song that put Monáe on the pop charts and mapped her onto our hearts, “Tightrope" video lets us have a real good look at her classic tux and smooth moves. It's a dance song for sure, but it's more than that. “Tightrope" is suffused with a Libran love for justice, for pointing out a double standard, for making sure that fair is fair. It might be worth noting that Monáe has her natal Mars in Libra which is why lyrics like, “You gotta keep your balance or you fall into the gap. It's a challenge but I manage," come as no surprise at all.
Scorpio: "Make Me Feel"
I have to say, Monáe's Sagittarian commitment to play and lightness makes her natal Venus in Scorpio a little difficult to catch in action, which is just fine since Scorpio is the kind of sign that likes to be witnessed on its own terms and by its own design. Maybe that's why “Make Me Feel" seems fitting as Monáe's most Scorpio track. Regarded as her “coming out," the video is a sexy negotiation between two attractions, featuring Monáe in see-through pants embroidered with roses, switching back-and-forth between lovers, and giving your idea of her sexuality the finger. She's not gay, she's not straight, she's “powerful with a little bit of tender, an emotional sexual bender."
Sagittarius: "I Like That"
It's true that all Monáe songs are inherently Sagittarian songs, but there's something particular about this one. Maybe it's the fact that the video features Monáe on her own, no posse, no party, just one android in a bleacher or a bathtub. Perhaps it's the direct and narrative nature of the lyrics, which seem intent on giving you a deeper understanding of Monáe as a person. “Sometimes a mystery, sometimes I'm free," sings Monáe. In true Sagittarian fashion, she lets us know she refuses to be pinned down. She's a “walking contradiction," “factual and fiction," and, like every irreverent pony-girl born under the star of the centaur, she doesn't give a fuck if she's the only one who likes that.
Capricorn: "Django Jane"
I'll admit, right from the get-go, this was my favorite song off Dirty Computer, so when I say it's a Capricorn song, I've really thought about it. I've thought about the kind of power this song has to change the world, the kind of power that a Capricorn wields with precision and a deep sense of personal best. “We gave you life, we gave you birth. We gave you God, we gave you Earth/ We fem the future, don't make it worse. You want the world? Well, what's it worth?" asks Monáe before she lets us know what it's worth to her. In “Django Jane," Monáe does the math and shows her work, she celebrates herself like every Capricorn deserves to do.
Aquarius: "Dance Apocalyptic"
This song is definitely in Aquarius territory, what with the all-white apparel giving off air element vibes and everyone having lots of fun on account of an apocalypse. That's right, an apocalypse is nigh; the song halts for a news break segment and Monáe is on the screen asking us if we would freak out. She's clearly not freaking out because she's from space like all Aquarians are. Here's an excerpt of the video's description posted on the official YouTube page: “In this alternate universe, citizens wear Heart-Hats— birdcages on their heads, complete with colorful chirping birds. This treasured custom of wearing Heart-Hats has lasted for centuries... But as of late, the music of the electric lady Janelle Monáe has many fandroids questioning tradition, tossing their destroyed Heart-Hats into the streets, fighting conventional social norms and breaking out by any means necessary."
I'll be honest, there's no way this song could have been anything except Monáe's Pisces song. Why? The answer is clear because this song is her collaboration with the legendary Erykah Badu. Badu is the queen of all things Pisces, as detailed by her own lyrics in “On & On" (Said I'm a Pisces…. Well, well, I'm raising hell. People always tryin' to find the world I'm in, I'm the envy of the women and I rule the men). Well, "Q.U.E.E.N" is the name of this song and all hail these queens as they bring the myriad worlds Pisces inhabit to the surface so that we mere humans can have a little sip. “Am I a freak for dancing around? Am I a freak for getting down?" Monáe sings, “I'm coming up, don't cut me down." No worries there, can't cut a Pisces down 'cause they're already swimming circles around you.