Janelle Monáe has a ‘whole spreadsheet’ of queer experiences that inspired NSFW video Lipstick Lover
Singer, actor and all-round creative powerhouse Janelle Monáe has opened up about the personal inspiration behind her sensual new single “Lipstick Lover” – a joyous celebration of queer Black sexual liberation.
Monáe recently made an explosive return to the music industry after a five-year hiatus and the Grammy-nominated singer‘s latest album, The Age of Pleasure, is due for release next month, after the first single, queer anthem “Float”, dropped in February.
The video sees Monáe – who came out as pansexual in 2018 and non-binary in 2022 – dancing, singing and kissing her way through a sex-positive, sapphic and sultry pool party with a defiant red pop of lip colour. Let’s just say there’s enough orgy vibes, nudity, fetish and sex toys galore to justify the fabulously slapped “inappropriate” warning on YouTube.
Perfectly encapsulated by the lyrics “I like lipstick on my neck/Leave a sticky hickey in a place I won’t forget”, the poppy reggae-style summer tune marks the Glass Onion star’s commitment to weaving sexy queerness throughout her music. And it’s all drawn from her own experiences, as she told Rolling Stone in an interview on Monday (22 May).
“I have a whole spreadsheet with 50 to almost 100 experiences that I had at this party,” she reminisced about her own wild party days. “I’ve been a lipstick lover. I wear red lipsticks at the parties. I’ve had moments where if me and a girl or an energy [using gender-neutral language] want to engage, you’re going to see lipstick.”
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And she’s not just giving but also receiving the treatment. “I remember how it felt when I got kissed on my neck with red lipstick. I remember how I went to bed feeling. It was a deep rouge. It wasn’t matte. I remember the way the person looked. And I was like, ‘That’s a f**king song’.”
And thus “Lipstick Lover” was born, leading to a hilarious reaction from Monáe’s mother posted on Instagram, rave reviews from fans and even more excitement for the upcoming album.
Although Monáe has won awards for their work supporting the LGBTQ+ community and is clearly not shy about imbuing her queerness into her music, she made it clear elsewhere in the interview that she isn’t trying to be an emblem for the whole community.
“You cannot project on to artists,” she said. “You have to understand that experiences will be had and people will change and evolve, and not be the person you look up to.
“As much as you love and care about me, I’m on my own journey that has nothing to do with music, has nothing to do with art, where I felt I should put pressure on myself to live up to expectations of what I feel a majority of people would want me to do. But that time isn’t now.”
The Age of Pleasure is due to be released on 9 June.
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