Our Top 10 Janelle Monae Songs list showcases the best Janelle Monae Songs including such greats as “We Are Young,” Make Me Feel and many more. Award-winning Janelle Monae Robinson was born in Kansas City, Kansas, and mostly raised by her mother after her parents separated while she was still just a toddler. Her younger half-sister, Kimmy, was born after her mother remarried. As a child, Janelle was raised as a Baptist Christian, learning to sing at the local church as she came from a family of musical performers. Already at a young age, she fancied herself pursuing a career in music. As a teenager, she enrolled in the Coterie Teather’s Young Playwrights’ Round Table where she learned how to write musicals. After graduating from high school, Janelle Monae moved to New York City to study musical theater.
While attending the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, she discovered she was the only black woman in the classroom. As challenging as it may have sounded, this was to Monae’s advantage as the experience taught her to want to write her own musicals instead of simply following what had already been done before so many times over. Before completing the second year of her studies at the academy, Monae relocated to Atlanta, Georgia where she attended Georgia State University and began to create and perform her own musical material. It would be during this time period she locally released her demo album, The Audition.
After The Audition
Monae’s demo album earned her a fan base where some wrote to her. While working as an employee of Office Depot, she used the store’s computer to answer a fan’s email and was fired for it. This would lead to her public debut of Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), an EP she released in 2007, four years after recording and selling her demo album. After signing with Bad Boy Records, she released her first studio album, The ArchAndroid, which was released on May 18, 2010. After the success of her EP and studio album, Monae performed as a guest vocalist on Fun’s hit single, “We Are Young.” Although the song is credited to Fun, this served as a big breakthrough for Monae as this earned her an even wider audience than she had before. When she recorded and released her second studio album in 2013, The Electric Lady became a commercial and critical success for the artist on a global scale. Five years later, Dirty Computer was released as Monae’s third studio album which has been her most commercially successful album to date.
In addition to the three studio albums to Janelle Monae’s credit, she has a total of four extended plays (EPs) and has been a featured artist for a number of top musical artists such as Duran Duran, Goodie Mob, Jeezy, and Nile Rodgers. Some of her grandest achievements as an entertainer include a 2010 American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Vanguard Award, a 2015 Billboard Women in Music Rising Star Award, and a 2018 Trailblazer of the Year Award.
Not only has Janelle Monae made a name for herself as a world-class artist in the music industry but in stage and theater as well. In 2016, she debuted as Mary Jackson, NASA’s aerospace engineer, in the production of Hidden Figures. She also starred in Moonlight, which later won the Academy Award’s Best Picture in 2017. She has also appeared on television, first as a singing guest in a 2009 episode of Stargate Universe and as recently as one of the stars on the series, Homecoming. In feature films, Janelle Monae has also acted in 2018’s Welcome to Marwen and 2019’s Harriet. In 2020, she has starred in The Glorias and Antebellum. As a voice, she has also performed in 2014’s Rio 2, 2019’s UglyDolls, and 2019’s version of Lady and the Tramp.
Top 10 Janelle Monae Songs
#10 – Dance Apocalyptic
From the album, The Electric Lady, the fast-paced “Dance Apocalyptic” won over the Irish and Japanese audience to peak at number seventy-nine and at number eighty-three on their music charts, respectfully. The incredible fusion of this dance-pop classic had all the best highlights from various music genres turning “Dance Apocalyptic” into a genius number that rightfully earned a place in the liberating dance clubs that encourage people to just let loose and enjoy themselves. That is what music is supposed to be about. The idea is to feel good and simply get caught up in the moment.
#9 – Q.U.E.E.N.
As an acronym, “Q.U.E.E.N.” was a song representing the marginalism of people. The “Q” represented the terminology of the word “queer” while “U” stood for “untouchables.” The first of the two “E” letters represented “emigrants” while the second was “excommunicated” and “N” stood for “negroid.” As a music video, “Q.U.E.E.N.” earned a win for Best Art Direction at the MTV Awards, along with Outstanding Music Video at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Awards, and Video of the Year with the Soul Train Music Awards. Beautifully ensembled as a funk meets hip-hop number, “Q.U.E.E.N.” not only served as some fun-filled single but happened to have a highly entertaining music video to go with it.
It also served as a social statement only the most creative artists in the music industry can pull off. Throughout the album, The Electric Lady, Janelle Monae dons the cyber-style character, Cindi Mayweather, as she performs one song after another in what became her signature style, along with the dressy tuxedos that dominate her wardrobe.
#8 – Yoga (featuring Jidenna)
In 2015, “Yoga” was released from the EP, The Eephus, which was part of Janelle Monae’s Wondaland Records collection she recorded as part of her musical production. As she teamed up with fellow hip-hop artist, Jidenna, the performance of “Yoga” was one of Monae’s first mainstream tracks as opposed to the funky blend of styles she has otherwise been known for. The brilliance behind this song saw Monae’s intensity encounter the calmer delivery by Jidenna. For Monae, “Yoga” was her first official appearance as the lead vocalist for a single on the US Billboard Hot 100 as the song peaked as high as number seventy-nine. It was also her best hit on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart at number twenty-four, as well as on the US Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart at number eight. It also became the second of four certified gold sellers with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) as the lead singer of a hit song.
#7 – Cold War
Released in 2010, “Cold War” became a number twenty hit in Brazil and a number thirty-six hit in Belgium. This futuristic style song was a brilliant mix of funk and new wave, bringing forth a genuinely thrilling experience for a listener who would be hard-pressed not to get caught up in the fast pace of “Cold War.” From the album, The ArchAndroid, this song has been cited as one of the album’s best examples of a creative Janelle Monae exercising the raw talent of her operatic-style vocals, along with the genius instrumentation played out by the strings and a truly memorable guitar solo performance. The beauty behind “Cold War” was the inspirational message to simply feel good about who you are and not let the world’s cold attitude get the best of your better self.
#6 – Tightrope
“Tightrope” won the Best Track in 2011 with the United Kingdom’s NME Awards as this hip-hop number from the album, The ArchAndroid, not only earned itself well-deserved attention as a musical genius but as a music video as well. Performing as “Cindi Mayweather,” the android persona Janelle Monae has brought to life as an artist, Monae also let out a funky style that would make some of the best R&B entertainers of yesteryear proud. “Tightrope” was appealing enough to become certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) after it was released in 2010. Although Monae had yet to appear on any official Billboard charts in North America, this single was enough to peak as high as number twenty in Belgium and was a number sixty-eight hit on Japan’s Adult Contemporary Airplay chart. On an international level, Janelle Monae was already making a solid name for herself as a world-class performer worthy of attention.
#5 – Venus Fly (featuring Aristophanes and Grimes)
As a music video, “Venus Fly” earned a Best EDM/Dance Video win with the Much Music Video Awards in 2017. Grimes brought forth the album, Art Angels, which featured the song, “Venus Fly” and the vocal performance of Aristophanes and Janelle Monae. As an album, Art Angels was a work of genius, earning the right to become so incredibly successful among so many nations as fans found the music too good to resist. “Venus Fly” was a thumpy standout favorite, thanks to Aristophanes’ cultural influence and Monae’s lyrics as the two added an element of class to such an intense tune.
#4 – What Is Love?
In 2014, “What Is Love?” earned a win for Hollywood Song at the 2014 Hollywood Film Awards. It is the lead song featured in the animated film, Rio 2, in which Janelle Monae lent her voice as the veterinarian character, Dr. Monae. This was the first time she made a contribution to a movie and by no means was her last. This inquisitive, yet playful song earned a considerable amount of critical acclaim, as well as gave Monae the recognition she deserved as one of the best vocal talents to grace the music industry. If there is ever a cheerful song to choose to hear Janelle Monae at her best with music suitable for all ears, “What Is Love?” is it.
#3 – I Like That
“I Like That” was a 2019 recipient of ASCAP’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Song award and it peaked as high as number fourteen on the US Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart when it was released in 2018. It also earned Janelle Monae her fourth gold certification with the RIAA, as well as her first number one hit as a solo artist on an official US Billboard music chart, namely in the Adult R&B Songs category. On the US Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart, it peaked at number nineteen. “I Like That” is one of those ideal R&B numbers to just kick back and enjoy this easy-listening number as a favorite the fans like enough to keep listening to over and over again.
#2 – Make Me Feel
On the US Billboard Hot 100, “Make Me Feel” appeared at number ninety-nine after it was released as a single in 2018. On the US Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart, it peaked as high as number nine and was a number three hit on Belgium’s Ultratop chart. On a global scale, “Make Me Feel’ from the album, Dirty Computer, has been Janelle Monae’s most performant hit as a lead vocalist. It also earned her an RIAA gold certification for the third time and was the first of her singles as a solo artist to make an appearance on the UK Singles Chart at number seventy-four. “Make Me Feel” also charted in Canada at number ninety-eight on its Hot 100 list, which was also the first time Monae independently earned this recognition. What makes this song so audibly appealing is the mix of psychedelic funk and soul that has been Monae’s trademark sound.
#1 – We Are Young (featuring Fun)
2011’s “We Are Young” was more than just a mega-hit single for Fun and guest vocalist, Janelle Monae. It became an anthem among the younger generation and served as the biggest hit both artists have so far achieved in their respective musical careers. For the group, Fun served as a major breakthrough as a number one hit that dominated the music charts among a number of nations, including the US Billboard Hot 100, the US Billboard Adult Top 40, the US Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Songs, and the US Billboard Mainstream Top 40 charts.
On the Euro Digital Songs chart, it was a number one hit as the brilliance behind the lyrics and energetic style of music play that made “We Are Young” become such a cult favorite. Already, this is a timeless hit and has already broken a number of records, including its dominance on the music charts, as well as the number of digital sales. In sales, “We Are Young” became an RIAA-certified diamond seller, as well as in Canada. In Australia, it was certified diamond seven times over.
Among the nations of Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK, “We Are Young” earned anywhere from a single platinum certification to quadruple. Belgium, France, and Japan certified the single as gold. “We Are Young” also won Song of the Year during the 2012 Grammy Awards ceremony and has become so inspirational that it has appeared as a staple favorite among dance clubs, music festivals, various film productions, and activist groups.
Top 10 Janelle Monae Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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