Janelle Monáe is one of few artists who’ve stayed 100% true to themselves since the birth of their careers, and found success in doing so. The singer, with her charming retro style, has challenged a listening audience to expect something out of the ordinary with her genre-bending music.
Monáe, who is currently working on the follow-up to 2010’s “The ArchAndroid,” will get to see some of that at play at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday (Feb. 10). Her and fun. are nominated for three Grammys — “Record of the Year,” “Song of the Year,” and “Best Pop Duo/Group Performance” — for the group’s hit “We Are Young.” Fun. is nominated for six Grammys in total.
“We Are Young” is up for several Grammy nominations. What made you collaborate with fun.?
I really like the fun. guys; they’re really great people. They’re friends and we toured together. They were big fans of the ‘Archandroid’ and all my work. When they sent me the song, I listened to it and immediately reacted. I don’t do a lot of collaborations that I don’t believe in. Actually, I don’t do any collaborations that I don’t believe in. When we heard the song at Wonderland, we were like, ‘yeah, this is a big idea; it’s gonna touch people in a way that they haven’t been touched before.’
I’m just honored that they wanted me to be a part of such a global song. People in my family and camp who grew up listening to rap music love ‘We Are Young.’ I’ve heard it play at weddings. I’ve heard it in graduation parties. It’s a big idea and big song. Again, I’m just very honored that they wanted me to be a part of it and they believed that I would add something to it. I’m very thankful.
How special is this year’s Grammys to you? How is it different from previous?
This year’s Grammys has a significant meaning. I was nominated before for my own work, you know, my own album and I had the opportunity to perform in 2011. That was a big moment for my career. I was able to crowd surf; it was electrifying. This time around I’m there to support fun. and we’re there together. This is about team work; it’s about collaborations andmaking people happy with our music. That means a lot; that’s a big deal.
Does it surprise you as to how you’ve been embraced by the media? Brands have wanted to connect with you for endorsement deals without you so much as compromising your hair.
Yeah. It does. When I got into the music industry, I wasn’t focused on being the most famous artist or even getting a major record deal. It was just to make music on my own terms or create my own image, do my own hair, do my own makeup. It’s an artistic expression for me. When I don’t believe in it (music) and it’s not fun anymore than I’ll just go on and do something else. That’s why I’m here today, because I’ve been able to be in control of that. I’m in control of what I want to say, how I want to dress, and how I want to live my life. I think that anyone who is coming in my life at this point will have to want to want to be involved with me because of my ideas, of my team’s ideas, our arts collective and our mission statements and things that we believe in. That’s why I’m excited what it is that we’re doing. We get a chance to bring the vision to life and we get a chance to partner with people like Sonos and Cover Girl who share the same types of beliefs that we have.
You’ve been so well-received by fans and media. Is there any trepidation as to if or how you’re going to top “The ArchAndroid”?
You know, I don’t have… this process. I have not tried to do any repeats. I have not lost any of my crazy, fearless, raw, soulful, eclectic side and I plan on continuing to tell universal stories in an unforgettable way. I am not afraid to exceed somebody’s expectation or underwhelm someone’s expectations. I try not to think about that. I try not to think that, ‘Wow, this is my last album, so I have to do everything.’ I plan on continuing to create music for a very long time.