Pride all summer: a listening guide for Janelle Monáe’s ‘The Age of Pleasure’

How to best enjoy Monáe’s steamy new album

Janelle Monáe just released her fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, and it’s the album of the summer—you can quote me on that. A brief, 30-minute wonder, the album is full of songs that celebrate freedom and sexuality, all accompanied by the sounds of reggae and Afrobeats. 

The album is perfect to listen to on your own or with company, but each song has a flavour to it that begs you to listen with certain scenarios in mind. I, your album guide, have suggested a few activities you can do while listening to each song that will have you feeling like it’s Pride all summer long. Let’s jump in! 

1. Float (feat. Seun Kuti and Egypt 80) 

The horns in this song will make you feel like a champion, like royalty; so you have to listen to it while doing something that matches that vibe. If you’re preparing for an important event, a date or job interview, let’s say, and need a little boost of confidence, this song is perfect. A song about having a face card that never declines, floating above it all, being bad and carefree—you have to put it on when you need to feel like you are on top of the world. Trust me, even if you’re feeling down, it will change your mood.

2. Champagne Shit

A song that starts with “I like all my kisses French” is one you need on your playlist for travel. Whether you are quite literally about to go take a picture in front of the Eiffel Tower or just going to Miami, you should be on your champagne shit. Play this when you’re relaxing on the beach or enjoying mimosas by a pool. You’ll feel like the rich gay auntie/uncle you have longed to be. 

3. Black Sugar Beach

This is a quick one, just around a minute long, and serves as a transition between “Champagne Shit” and “Phenomenal.” With that in mind, this should be accompanied by a transitional activity, like the brisk walk from one club to the next. 

4. Phenomenal (feat. Doechii)

This is my favourite song on the album. I play it when I’m doing my makeup and getting dressed to go out, whether it’s to dinner or the doctor’s office. The opening line: “I’m lookin at a thousand versions of myself, and they’re all fine as fuck,” is just so delicious and ego-boosting. The Doechii feature is also so perfectly utilized. “Phenomenal” is a sexy song best played as you prepare to make your debut at the bar, the nearest Pride parade or even just the grocery store. 

5. Haute 

 

This song is also around a minute and is in the same vein as “Phenomenal.” It’s just about being hot and feeling yourself. My recommendation is to put this one on when you’re driving around with the top down (if you have a top to put down, if not, roll the windows down so everyone can hear) embodying that “main character energy” the kids are always talking about. I would also put this on a playlist for someone I was feeling. An affirmative “you look good, bitch” song can go a long way in that regard.

6. Ooh La La (feat. Grace Jones)

Grace Jones is speaking in French here and I have no idea what she’s saying. I used Google to translate, and it sounds like a person trying to bag a couple, which is very hot, especially when Grace Jones is the one saying it to you, in French. Done in a flash, I would add it to your makeout playlist to enhance the “I’m super sexy” vibes for you and the other person (or other couple?). 

7. Lipstick Lover 

This is another PERFECT makeout song. Especially if you want the makeout to progress a little further. The intention is very clear with this song, so add it to your sex playlist—it’s the perfect middle-of-the-road track that will help progress things when you both want to move from fooling around to doing the deed. 

8. The Rush (feat. Nia Long & Amaarae)

Are you a DJ or throwing a party? Play this song at whatever event you’re in charge of crafting the energy for, and I assure you people will go up for it. The song is slow, perfect for making people want to sway their hips on a cutie. I’ve been a fan of Amaarae for a little while and I love her vocals in this song. That falsetto is so perfectly placed in a song that has this deep, sensual feel to it. 

9. The French 75 (feat. Sister Nancy) 

Another transition, I think the later half of the song with Sister Nancy could be utilized in a DJ set quite nicely. Sister Nancy’s booming voice is well suited for livening up the scene if the party is fading a little. 

10. Water Slide

This song doesn’t mince words in its metaphor. Like, we are not talking about visiting the wave pool! It’s giving Tweet’s “Oops (Oh My)”. You can play this when you’re having a self-love session, sexual or otherwise. It’s just a very feel-good song in more ways than one. 

11. Know Better (feat. CKay, Seun Kuti & Egypt 80) 

For me, “Know Better” is great for dancing in the mirror by yourself or with friends. Maybe you take a video of you dancing to send to a lover? Both are very good options. The beat on this one is perfect for testing out new dance moves and incorporating them with your tried-and-true classics. 

12. Paid in Pleasure 

What does it mean to be paid in pleasure? I think we all know. There are obvious scenarios for this song, but I’m going to do something different and suggest you put it on when you’re about ready to go on a shopping spree with someone else’s money. This song is so clearly the soundtrack to your next luxurious shopping trip. Or maybe you’re just on a Target run—whatever you do, throw this on in the car or on your headphones. 

13. Only Have Eyes 42

Okay, this one is so sweet. Perfect for date night with your love. Make them a nice dinner with signature drinks, a dessert that isn’t something basic, something with ingredients that are delicious and interesting. Right now, I’m very into ube, so try an ube cake or pudding; its unique, vanilla-like flavour is great for desserts. Then, you can dance in each other’s arms as the night winds down, Ugh, I’m such a romantic! I love that this is the second-last song because it rounds the album out so well. 

14. A Dry Red

Can I just say I love the way this song starts? “Hey baby, let me plant my seed,” with the accompaniment of that cool, relaxed string instrument. I’m a sober person, but “A Dry Red” is the kind of song I would listen to while smoking and drinking with someone I really like. Of course, do things legally and responsibly! Picture it: you and a babe laying out in the sun passing a joint back and forth while you sip on your drink of choice? The stuff of dreams. If you’re also sober, you can still enjoy this song. Grab a fruit juice and your favourite sparkling water, call up your crush and watch the sunset from a special spot in your city with a few mocktails. 


These are just some suggestions, so feel free to mix and match or to not do any of these at all. The beauty of music is how it makes us feel, so what I feel when I listen might not make sense to your experience. Either way, keep it sexy and have fun!

Dani Janae is a poet and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She earned her BA in Creative Writing from Allegheny College. Her work has been published by Autostraddle, Refinery29, Vice and others. She lives in South Carolina and speaks English.

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