Artists have long declared how “personal” their music is, but Monét and Grande have taken that to the next, damn-near TMI level -- and in the process created a new template for what a pop song can be. As a writer, Monét has 12 credits on the Billboard Hot 100. The chart-topping singles she made with Grande and a core girl squad that includes Tayla Parx and Njomza -- “Thank U, Next,” the no-holds-barred inventory of Grande’s recent exes, and “7 Rings,” a no-shame ode to buying yourself all the shit you want -- have earned a combined 1.53 billion on-demand streams, according to Nielsen Music.
“I’m hoping that people are inspired by the freedom we have to say what we want in songs. But I’m not sure that it’s something so brand new,” demurs Monét, 26. She speaks like Anita Baker sings “Sweet Love,” in calm, smooth, feminine tones. She sounds like a natural singer, but growing up a “shy teen” in Sacramento, Calif., she focused on dance. She always could harmonize, though, and cared enough to look up who produced the songs her favorite artists (Brandy, Destiny’s Child) sang, which is how she discovered Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins was behind them all. Monét DM’d him in 2008 on Myspace, and he messaged her back, asking her to audition for a girl group. A week later, she was a member of Purple Reign, moving to Los Angeles and starting a career.
Though Jerkins provided her entree into the music world, Monét says she really learned about songwriting, harmonizing and hooks from LaShawn Daniels, who wrote for Purple Reign. While the group’s album was stuck in label purgatory, Monét connected with and started to write for people who came through the studio. (Motown dropped the group before it released an album, and Monét hasn’t spoken to Jerkins since.)
Her songwriting break came in 2010, when she co-wrote the lyrics for Dirty Money’s “I Hate That You Love Me”; she has since crafted hooks for Nas, T.I., Kendrick Lamar and Fifth Harmony. In 2013, she was introduced to then-Nickelodeon star Grande and wrote a few tracks for her debut, Yours Truly. The two became fast friends: Monét started spending time with Grande’s big Italian family, playing card games and eating pasta and cheese. “It ended up being a lot more friendship-based than music-based,” says Monét.
When she and Grande write together, which is often, Monét likens it to a sleepover, a party, a therapy session. “It’s the closest I can get to writing for myself,” she says. Her recent single with Grande, “Monopoly” -- in which both women sing “I like women and men” (Monét identifies as bisexual) and extol the benefits of working with your best friend -- puts Monét and her distinct, hip-hop-influenced sound at the center of a track. But the two women’s voices blend so well, it’s hard to tell where Monét ends and Grande begins.
“Victoria is a brilliant collaborator, musician, writer and just as brilliant of a friend. She is a very pure person and I think that’s why we connect the way we do,” says Grande. “It’s so rare to meet people in the industry that haven’t been tainted by it in some way or developed some kind of crazy ego. She is a timeless writer and vocalist and one of the nicest people I know and truly deserves the world. I’m so proud of the work we’ve done together and so excited to watch her grow as an artist.”