Janelle Monáe, from the Future to the Present | WBEZ
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The New Yorker Radio Hour

Janelle Monáe, from the Future to the Present

Janelle Monáe is an unlikely pop star. Her music is rooted in soul and R. & B., but also in pop, punk, and New Wave; her early releases were science-fiction concept albums, influenced by Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” and modern Afrofuturism, set far in the future, and starring herself as an android.  She didn’t follow the Zeitgeist—she made her own Zeitgeist. Then, after gaining recognition as a major figure in pop, Monáe made an impressive acting début as one of the leads of “Hidden Figures,” and appeared in the Oscar-winning film “Moonlight.” Monáe sat down with David Remnick to talk about her latest album, “Dirty Computer.” Despite the title, it’s not at all science fiction. For the first time, she’s dealing frankly with the issues that she’s facing—and that our country is facing—right now. Plus, the staff writer Judith Thurman hits the streets of multiethnic Queens with a linguist who speaks so many languages that he’s lost count. Luis Miguel Rojas-Berscia says the trick is to be fearless, and shameless, about engaging strangers in conversation.  “You have to get rid of that inhibition,” he says, “if you want to speak a language.”

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