In the time since Janelle Monáe dropped one of the best albums of the 2010s, the Grammy-nominated Dirty Computer, she’s been focused on her acting career. As fans starved for a follow-up to the album that featured such memorable songs as “Make Me Feel” and “Pynk,” Janelle delivered critically-acclaimed performances in films such as Harriet and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery — both of which landed Oscar nominations.
For the first taste of her upcoming record, Monáe has unleashed “Float” a soaring anthem of inner peace that finds her freewheeling between a sparse hook and blithe rap verses. Assisted by Sean Kuti & Egypt 80, “Float” commences with an intro that recalls the effortless ease of rocksteady melodies. By the time Egypt 80’s horns come in, as crisp as the way she enunciates her consonants, Monáe proclaims, “No, I’m not the same, nigga / I think I done changed, nigga.” She delivers the line with a vindication of a person who has clearly gone through some deep shit to get to the place of peace and self-assuredness in which she currently resides. After wrestling with interlocked systems of oppression and the matrix of human sexuality with Dirty Computer, Monáe is in a place of victory now. Has she figured all of that out? Unclear. Nevertheless, she is no longer going to “walk into the room head down.”
The first half of “Float” is quite spacious; the simplicity of the lyrics and rhyme scheme allows for a proper spotlight to shine on the robust production, which, in turn, provides a welcome contrast to the busier rap verses. In a way, “Float” feels like a distant cousin of “Django Jane,” less confrontational and more unbothered. “Float” fully leans into the feeling of triumph that’s almost intrinsic to so many brass instruments. The trumpets on this track aren’t just here for decoration and glitz, they are literally heralding a new era for Monáe — an era that’s markedly lighter than the ones she has previously presented to us. Her voice — forgive me — floats over the instrumental with a cavalier attitude, shifting between a sultry morning-after rasp and an authoritative rave-ready staccato.
It seems that nobody “misses” these days, but, when it comes to Janelle Monáe, she truly is yet to have a misstep. “Float” is a delicious entry point into the next stage of her sonic universe.