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    Exclusive Q&A with Janelle Monáe

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Janelle Monae performed at the Stony Brook Arena along with Bruno Mars and Plan B in one of Stony Brook's largest concerts in years. (Aleef Rahman/The Statesman)

     

     

     

     

     

    The Statesman’s Copy Chief, Megan Spicer, had the opportunity for an exclusive one-on-one interview with Janelle Monáe, who visited Stony Brook with Bruno Mars on May 6 as part of their “Hooligans in Wondaland” tour.

    Megan Spicer: You had an incredible year in 2010. What was that whole experience like for you?

    Janelle Monáe: I was very thankful. It was very humbling. It was a very emotional year for me. There are a lot of things that happened to me. There were just things that I didn’t know were going to happen. I’m thankful for all the relationships I’ve got from the album and Prince liking the album and it being one of his favorite albums and wanting me to open up at Madison Square Garden and also play with him May 13th in LA at the Forum. Stevie Wonder sang. It’s one of his favorite albums. As far as Of Montreal, it was amazing. They are my friends. It’s taken me all over. It’s taken me so many places, the album. The Grammy’s were a huge moment for me. I didn’t win a Grammy, but that wasn’t my most important goal. It was really to perform and be recognized at such an early stage in my career. You’re a part of history in 2010, and you want people to be aware of what artists are rising. And for them to pick me it was a humbling thing yet very encouraging.

    MS: When did you know that you wanted to go into music and make it a career?

    JM: It picked me. There’s nothing more I can do about it. It’s one of those things that, like, being an artist is found in you.

    MS: In a past interview, you said that your tuxedo wardrobe is like your superhero costume. Who is your favorite superhero?

    JM: I have to say I enjoy creating superheroes. I think there are a lot of ones that exist, there are really cool ones. But Cindi Mayweather is definitely my superhero. She is the archandroid [the inspiration for her album] Her story is just so motivational and inspirational because she has chosen to actually bring together. She’s the mediator between the oppressed and oppressor. I wanted her story to really represent all those people who are finding out things about themselves and coming to accept themselves of who they are, coming to understand their superpowers, understanding how extraordinary they are and the obstacles that they have to go through. And these are all things we have to deal with in our daily lives. She’s for the people, and that’s why I love her.

    MS: How do you react to some of female artists’ choice of wardrobe of the “less is more” mentality while you choose to wear more than less?

    JM: To each his own. My purpose is not their purpose, and vice versa. For me, I don’t want to look like everybody else. I don’t. I just don’t. I love the tuxedo because it’s a trend setter, It’s my style. It commands attention. It is simply dramatic, and that’s what I enjoy being — very dramatic and very simple. I just choose to divide my colors into different areas.

    MS: How important is music in bringing together people of different culture? Especially on a campus like Stony Brook which is so culturally diverse.

    JM: Music is that common denominator. Music, basically, is meant to bring us all together. The purpose of the artist is to be the mediator. There are many ethnicities. Y’know, when I look out to the audience, that’s what I want to see. It’s the common denominator, the one thing we all love. Music has no race. There is no gender. It has no sexuality. People need music. It is the one thing we connect and bond with.

    MS: How does playing at a university venue differ from playing at a venue such as the Roseland Ballroom where you played to a sold-out show?

    JM: I actually like this better than the Roseland because it wasn’t all the press. I love the people here. I get the sense that everybody wanted just to have a good time, we’re not trying to be cool. This tour is really cool for me because this is pretty much Bruno’s audience, which is great. My supporters are also mixed in, but we had a lot of new faces out there and I’m really excited about meeting his family, the ones who listen to his songs on the radio, and it was very generous of him to let me be a part and co-headline this tour with him.

    MS: Did that make you nervous at all that you were playing, as you say, to primarily Bruno’s audience?

    JM: No, absolutely not. I don’t get scared of other humans. It doesn’t scare me at all. I think people don’t know they want to hear and see it until they hear and see it. It’s up to me to give that to them. We love what we’re doing. We’re very confident in our skin and wherever there is music, that’s my home, so I never feel homesick or I never feel out of place. I have a right to go anywhere.

    MS: What are you listening to right now?

    JM: Roman Gianarthur and Deep Cotton. They’re artists from the Wondaland Arts Society and their music is just genius.

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