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Janelle Monáe mentions Bowie in “Haute” (2023)

Back on December 30th, I posted a video of Janelle Monáe and Young Pete performing, “Moonage Daydream,” explaining that Monáe and co-star Edward Norton almost performed the song in the movie, Glass Onion. As it was, that movie included two Bowie songs in the soundtrack.

Monáe, meanwhile, has openly spoken of her admiration for Bowie. The singer/actress, who presents as nonbinary and often dresses in traditionally masculine outfits, released a cover of “Heroes” in 2014 and, at the time said, “Bowie knows what’s up. He’s a fan and I’m a fan of him. The respect is mutual. I hear from his wife Iman that he’s a huge supporter of me, the way I dress and my music. I just hope that we made him proud.”

When Bowie died, Monáe posted her own tribute on social media, writing in part, “Thinking of you my Ziggy Stardust moonage day dream . Even in your ascension to another frequency you still manage to guide me, and all of us who you inspire. You continue to teach me what freedom looks like through the gifts you left behind. You continue to help me and so many feel comfortable during some of our most vulnerable and fearful moments.”

So, clearly, Monáe is a fan of Bowie and the term “Moonage day dream” is meaningful to her. That’s why she worked into one of her latest songs, “Haute,” these lines: “I’m raising the bar; They giving me stars; They think I’m supreme; They say I look better; Than David Bowie; In a MoonAge Dream.”

I learned about this song from an NPR review by Ken Tucker. In it, Tucker said, “At one point, Janelle Monáe name-checks David Bowie. And I suspect she may be thinking of his “Let’s Dance” period, that moment in the 1980s when he teamed up with producer Nile Rodgers to say, in effect, the world is going crazy, so let’s dance. Monáe is refashioning that sentiment to fit our current moment.”

Well, thanks Ken for alerting me to the song’s existence (actually I had to do extra work because he says that the lines are on Monáe’s album, but doesn’t say which song), but I think he’s wrong about what Bowie period Monáe was finding inspirational. The album is called, The Age of Pleasure. Between that theme, the gender non-conformity and the explicit reference to “Moonage Daydream,” Monáe pretty much has the Ziggy period on her mind. No matter— Ken Tucker can interpret the music however he wants. Bowie liked that kind of thing, and I suspect so too does Janelle Monáe.

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