PYNK & coming out
R&B singer and actress Janelle Monáe has just dropped a juicy new erotic 80’s-inspired music video, PYNK.
It’s an easy video to like, even if you don’t know of Monáe’s recent jubilantly-received announcement.
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Monáe made a lot of women happy when she confirmed that she currently sees herself as queer and/or pansexual. “Being a queer black woman in America,” she says, taking a breath as she comes out, “someone who has been in relationships with both men and women – I consider myself to be a free-ass motherfucker.” She initially identified as bisexual, she clarifies, “but then later I read about pansexuality and was like, ‘Oh, these are things that I identify with too.’ I’m open to learning more about who I am.”
So PYNK is even more exciting in light of her revelation.
My favorite PYNK highlights:
So many vaginas! Okay, maybe not actual vaginas (music videos haven’t come that far yet, more’s the pity) but poetic vaginas. Metaphorical vaginas appear in the form of pink donuts, grapefruit, oysters, and OMG THOSE AMAZING PINK RUFFLED VAGINA PANTS. By the way, rumor is that the pants are such a cult hit that she is considering getting them mass-produced. Though I personally hardly wear pants anymore, I’ll be first in line for these.
Loads of queer Black sex, at least in poetic implication. All these women together on the dance floor, at the pool, driving around – they’re about to have sex, or just had it, or are metaphorically having it right now as we watch.
Her fluffy alpaca red scarf appears shortly after we’ve just seen her caressing her friend’s face with curtains of hair hanging (it’s at 1:09…wow, this image is so sex-positively-erotic that I’m kind of amazed that the TV music stations allow it). A finger rubs grit into an oyster, Monáe strokes a long-haired pussycat. Okay, yes, sometimes the imagery is a bit obvious, but from a tactile perspective it just plain works.
There’s lots of skin but also lots of smiling, no one getting over on anyone else.
One of the featured dancers is Tessa Thompson, widely rumored to be not only Monáe’s best friend but also her lover. (“It’s tricky,” she demurrs when asked by journalists directly.) At one point, Thompson pokes her head out from Janelle’s vagina-pant thighs and smiles directly at us. They’re having fun with the rumors, or maybe they’re even confirming them right here for us, but either way it feels charming and fun to know that the PYNK video is letting us in on a secret.*
At the pool, at the parties, there’s a lot of smooth Black skin. Normally I grow very weary of music videos featuring women’s barely-clothed perfect bodies as a lazy visual shorthand for the “sexiness” that it’s presumed all men want (which, by the way, also doesn’t give real-life male viewers much credit.) Showing women’s bodies in the context of this female-utopia, though, I find myself peacefully willing to reinterpret the image. For example, there’s one shot that normally would put me off– at 2:00, we see a landscape of women’s Black butts wearing white underwear, with butts arranged geometrically into a flesh painting. It’s a shot that could be objectifying. And yet, in PYNK, who do we see appear at the top of the bum landscape? Tessa Thompson again! With Monáe gazing back at her! Well, it’s hard not to love an ode to asses that that poses queer women as both the creators of the image and as the holders of the “gaze”.
PYNK is so spare and relaxed musically, it’s a quirky contrast to the implication of frantic fucking. Maybe this is going to be some slow and sweet fucking. Or maybe this is the musical hallmark of female characters with total sexual confidence, who know they’re going to please the fuck out of you and they don’t need to brag about it in advance? Either way: Erotic as heck.
I plan to listen to this track all spring and summer.
And if you find I’ve ignited a crush for you on Janelle Monáe, let me leave you with one more video to enjoy! Her other breakout hit, Tightrope, doesn’t feature erotic imagery, but Monáe’s dapper tuxedo style and tight dance moves are another appealing flavor of masculinity/femininity that have made her really stand out as a performer. Plus “Tightrope” is just plain good.
* Update 2 weeks later: Janelle Monáe has just released Dirty Computer, a stunning 45-minute “emotion picture,” a gorgeous music video with a narrative tying all the Dirty Computer songs from her album together. And Tessa Thompson stars as her lover in the movie. So were the initial PYNK queer Janelle/Tessa images just a tease for the emotion picture? Or a true reflection of a personal relationship that predates all of this cultural iconography? We’ll never know!