“I pledge allegiance to the flag / Learned the words from my mom and dad / Cross my heart and I hope to die / With a big old piece of American pie.” Ah, the pre-chorus lyrics serve as prime example of a vicious cycle of influence, as opposed to free, individual thought… In 2018, Janelle Monáe spoiled us with a bold, third studio album, Dirty Computer. Encompassing feminism, sexuality, social, and political issues, Dirty Computer was nominated for Album of the Year at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards. Up-tempo, major-key closer “Americans” is a stellar microcosm of the project as a whole.
Following a slow intro, “Americans” opts for a rollicking pace, chocked-full of energy and enthusiasm. It’s interesting that Monáe maintains enthusiasm, despite the fact that “Americans” highlights a myriad of problems Americans experience. On the first verse, she serves up numerous socially-charged lyrical gems, including “Hands go up, men go down, try my luck, stand my ground,” referencing racial injustice and gun laws. In the same verse, sexuality (“Uncle Sam kissed a man”) and racism, with a dash of religion (“Jim Crow Jesus rose again”) get nods. On the second verse, there’s more of the same, mentioning unequal pay for women. There’s also a ‘bridge’ that appears prior to the pre-chorus, highlighting old-fashioned thinking and stereotypes. “A pretty young thang, she can wash my clothes,” Monáe sings, continuing, “But she’ll never ever wear my pants.”
Monáe has plenty to say – add “Americans” to the list of modern protest songs. That said, the atonement and the positivity shine incredibly bright on the chorus. Here, she expands the meaning of ‘American’ to be all inclusive as opposed to exclusive to a select few.
“Love me baby, love me for who I am
Fallen angels singing, ‘Clap your hands’
Don’t try to take my country, I will defend my land
I’m not crazy, baby, naw, I’m American.”
You can learn more about Janelle Monáe here:
About The Curator - Brent Faulkner
Slightly eccentric with interests that seem to know no ends, restless ‘Renaissance Man’ is the best way to characterize Brent Faulkner, a native of Kentucky. A certified music educator, multi-instrumentalist, and composer known for his incredibly sharp ear, he lives and breathes music of a variety of styles. In addition to passion for educating, performing, and writing music, he’s equally passionate blogging and writing about it, managing his own site, The Musical Hype (https://themusicalhype.com). When he’s not intensely analyzing music, you can find him reading or watching a movie, reality television or some sporting event.