Janelle Monáe does not stand down. Throughout this tumultuous year, she has taken her prominent platform as a responsibility. She may be on the entertainment talk circuit to promote an Amazon series or a psychological horror film, but she takes her turn at the microphone to talk about police brutality, to talk about the disproportionate harm the COVID pandemic has delivered to the Black community because of prejudices embedded in the country’s healthcare system, to talk about all the ways in which our society defaults into discrimination against many communities she in a part of, including the Black community and the LGBTQIA community. She started her music career by veiling her protest anthems in the metaphors of Afrofuturism, androids and sci-fi cities. Now, she speaks her rage plainly.
“Turntables” was written and recorded for All In: The Fight for Democracy, a documentary about historic and ongoing efforts at voter disenfranchisement with special attention paid to the activism of Stacy Abrams, the duly elected governor of Georgia who was denied the office by the corrupt manipulations of her opponent, then presiding over the election process in his role as Secretary of State. In the song, Monáe records her frustration and makes a promise of change. Because she and her compatriots aren’t going to stop fighting for their owed place in the culture, I believe that change is going to come. But hope isn’t enough, Monáe would say. The moment requires action.