“The table ‘bout to turn,” Janelle Monáe decrees in her recent anthem “Turntables.” The video features Monáe clad in ‘40s neo-military garb while archival images of civil rights battles converge with modern-day Black Lives Matter protests, illuminating the through-line from the past to the present. History repeats, but in “Turntables,” Monáe declares, “We kicking out the old regime.”
At a time when so many artists were sidelined, Monáe’s timely projects kept coming. In May, she starred in the acclaimed second season of Homecoming as a queer military veteran caught up in a sinister deal between big pharma and the U.S. government. The modern horror Antebellum (released in September) starred Monáe as an empowerment author terrorized by America’s continued refusal to reckon with its roots in white supremacy. She also appeared as the legendary activist Dorothy Pitman Hughes in The Glorias.