“Penelope” is such a strangely evocative song. I’ve always been intrigued by its ability to make me feel — quite viscerally — the anxiety, trepidation, and impending heartbreak of the singer as he considers the imminent death of his beloved pet goldfish.
And while this might seem like a rather simple story on the surface, I think the reason I connect so deeply with this song is that I can relate to the singer’s desire for control over an uncontrollable situation — the urge to protect, comfort, and nurture those we love in their most fragile moments because it, in turn, allows us to soothe our own fears and insecurities in those moments.
Today I bring you “Make Me Feel” by Janelle Monáe, her clearest Prince tribute to date. The music and the lyrics play with the same sexiness, gender game, and ambiguity as the purple genius used to surprise us with. “Baby, don’t make me spell it out for you,” she says. Even the video becomes a tribute to his aesthetics and image. This is a fantastic funky song with everything on its side to be a hit.
Image, lyrics, and sound bring Prince to our minds. For his fans this would be just like an unexpected candy. It makes us feel we haven’t lost him yet. The fact that new singers can capture some of his soul and create new stuff is refreshing and hopeful. This is the first single of her next album which is meant to be her most sincere and confessional until now, “coming from my heart” she has stated.
Janelle is an eclectic singer, she has intelligently mixed diverse music genres such as jazz, funk, opera, electronic, pop or R&B before. Her voice is powerful and unique too. So we can’t wait to listen to what is she has done this time. Choosing this Prince tribute to start with is totally appealing.
This girl has also “The Motown” touch. Her influences are so rich… Read what she once said about Michael Jackson:
“According to my Aunt Gloria, it was apparent that making music was my dream after she took me to Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ concert in my hometown Kansas City. The next morning I went to church and started beating on the back of a pew, tapping and singing Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ extremely loud during my pastor’s sermon! The whole church chuckled, and I believe I was escorted out. That moment gave me great joy and extra confidence.”
“And if all your hopes survive
your destiny will arrive…”
I remember being obsessed with Olivia Newton John’s album Physical in Second grade. I don’t know exactly why, but it was what I wanted the most that year for my birthday, and I got it. She always looked so perfect: the braided headband that never messed up her feathered hair, her lilting voice. I was clunky and awkward and plain. No one would mistake me for perfect. I also remember not being aware of Xanadu when it was released in 1980, but I was aware of “Magic,” because I heard it on the radio, and it’s retained its hold on me all of this time. Laugh at the movie if you want (man falls in love with one of the nine Muses, and she helps him create a hugely popular roller disco, with some assists from Gene Kelly.) But it’s not so easy to dismiss: Kelly reminds the younger generations that he moved like no one else, and this song, along with what ELO serves, is pure pop candy. I hope no one decides this movie needs to be remade; there is something sweet and naive in it, with no real darkness, and I want it to stay that way.
I will admit to being really late to the party as far as XTC are concerned. It must have been 1988 when I bought one of those re-issued re-issue ‘Best of’ compilations. My dad had been in a band, who pressed a single that was given away to more people than actually purchased a copy. I’d read his lyrics that he’d kept on loose sheets of A4 in a battered old army suitcase. They were about life in the city, love, life in the city and oh yeah, love. When I first played him XTC and raved about them (“Senses working overtime”) his response was “yeah, whatever”. I longed him to write something like XTC — a song that could go from whimsical to angry in a heartbeat. He never did, but he did come into my room one evening when “Generals and Majors” was blasting out of the crappy little speakers of my hi-fi and mutter, “Quite a good one this is, son”. Thanks dad, I know. I did try to tell you.
The song starts with the military style drum beat and an understated, very English vocal style: “Generals and Majors/A-ha/They’re never too far/from battlefields so glorious”. It sucks you in to what you think is going to be a quaint little ditty along the lines of “Oh what a lovely war!” but then Colin Moulding’s lyric hits you like a SCUD missile: “Generals and Majors/always seem so unhappy unless they got a war!” before reverting back to a gentle melodic cry of “Calling Generals and Majors!” and then some nutty military whistling over angular guitars.
I can’t quite believe it only made Number 32 in the UK singles charts of 1980. Perhaps its wry look at the craziness and futility of war and those in charge was mis-timed, but the point is XTC were a band that really didn’t care. It was their art and it was for everyone else to decide if it was any good or not. They just kept doing it. And a major thanks to them for doing so and being a part of my life. This is a song that is like a frightening echo of the current round of war-mongering in the world. Never before has the lyric “Your World War III is drawing near” seemed less like a prediction and more like a news report.
About the author: Janelle Salanga is a small human usually found wearing stripes, bright colors, and/or funky socks; among other things, she has a fondness for ampersands, egg puffs, and Brooklyn 99. She is a second-year student at the University of California, Davis, majoring in Computer Science and English; her poems have been published or are forthcoming in The Margins, Occulum, and Tenth Street Miscellany
About the author: Saudha Kasim lives in Bengaluru, India. She is a corporate communications professional by day and an aspiring novelist by night. She has been published in Eclectica, Out of Print, Cha, Elle India and other publications. She can be found on Twitter @saudha_k.
Vignettes and Musings While Contemplating Throwing Copper, Secret Samadhi, and The Distance to Here, by Live by Kolleen Carney-Hoepfner
To read this piece, click on the album cover below.
About the author: Kolleen Carney-Hoepfner is the Editor-In-Chief for Drunk Monkeys and the Managing Editor for Zoetic Press. She has an MFA in poetry which, I mean, come on. All she does is eat pasta, drink vodka, and watch Vanderpump Rules. She lives in Burbank, CA, tweets @KolleenCarney, and blogs…poorly… at kolleencarney.com.
I recommend Paradise by George Ezra to anyone who feels the sometimes peaceful, sometimes agonizing, all the times energetic feeling of being in love. The kind of love that makes us jump up and down with a guitar (if you’re a real musician or just practicing).
The music video is absolutely mesmerising; the colors work well for my eyes (moody and electric), and the lyrics work well for my heart:
If it feels like Paradise running through your bloody veins/You know it’s love heading your way
About the author: Kyler Fey is a queer dude who writes erotic science-fantasy fiction and fantasy-infused autofiction. This creative work, he finds, is a pleasant diversion from his day-job in the food and wine world, where he tolerates the people around him with a real but amiable contempt. Kyler Fey lives in Saint Louis USA with his (gay) spouse and his kitties.