• Fatima Sheekhuna

Janelle Monáe Reminds us Change is Near in New Visuals for "Turntables"

Images of political protest, racial justice and the fight for Black liberation reign heavy in Janelle Monáe's new video "Turntables." The song, was written for the Amazon Studio's documentary All In: The Fight For Democracy, a film that will take an in depth look into how US citizens basic right to vote are threatened due to the insidious laws and barriers that are in place, many of which people are unaware of.

This is the first musical release of Monáe's since her third solo album, Dirty Computer, released in 2018.

Historical imagery such as the moment Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in the Black Power salute, whilst receiving their medals in the 1968 Olympics are screened alongside more recent footage of protests enraging the US, that began in late May as a response to the death of George Floyd - that continue in some states to this day. This then cuts to a young girl watching this all through a Virtual Reality headset - which may symbolise Monáe 's hope that these moments are shifting to an end, which Black people will no longer have to physically live through in their reality. "We kicking out the old regime / Liberation, elevation, education / I said 'America, yousa lie' / But the whole world 'bout to testify," she raps, further emphasising that hope.

While watching the video its hard for Nina Simone's words on an artists responsibility to not ring within one's ears. "An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. I think that is true of painters, sculptors, poets, musicians. As far as I’m concerned, it’s their choice, but I choose to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself. That, to me, is my duty. And at this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when everyday is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but be involved. Young people, black and white, know this. That’s why they’re so involved in politics. We will shape and mold this country or it will not be molded and shaped at all anymore. So I don’t think you have a choice. How can you be an artist and not reflect the times? That to me is the definition of an artist." And Monáe manages to do just that - doing justice to thoughts she shared on her Rolling Stone interview, as she wondered "what is a revolution without a song?"

The video ends on a slight high with the powerful portrayal of Black beauty, joy and liberation - and going back to her Rolling Stone interview, Monáe has managed to create something that conveys to freedom fighters, that despite the trauma and exhaustion, the tables are turning and change is happening.

Watch the video here.

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