Thursday, September 6th, 2018

Janelle Monáe – I Like That

New Janelle Monáe single? Yeah, we like that too.


Ian Mathers: You know what? I do like that.

Tobi Tella: It’s refreshing to hear a self-love anthem that actually has some power behind it. The bridge where Janelle recounts specific instances of self-esteem dropping situations only to move past them and use them to give herself more power is fantastic. Great song from one of the best albums of the year.

Alfred Soto: Her vocal choices are A-plus examples of slyness, performative erotics, and having fun. Whether “I Like That” crosses over matters less than soaking in the pleasures of its sound. Five years ago Janelle Monáe was incapable of these things.

Ryo Miyauchi: The epiphanies like in this song, shared during the more private moments of Dirty Computer, stuck with me more than the album’s more triumphant celebrations. Janelle Monáe still beats her chest with confidence in “I Like That,” but she sings of being left of center equally as a badge of honor as much as a personal insecurity. Organized Noize responds accordingly by handing in a sparse, introverted trunk-rattler of a beat that smoothly finds the middle point of those emotional spheres.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: A song about self-love that understands that such an action is a continual process that occurs throughout one’s entire life. The corniest lines (“A little rough around the edges but I keep it smooth”) thus sit comfortably alongside the boldest declarations (“I don’t really give a fuck if I was just the only one who liked that”). While the bridge provides meaningful anecdotes, it doesn’t really add to the song musically, which leads me to believe that this may have been more impactful in a different format. Still, it’s all a bit too straightforward; universal and moving because it’s personal, but also because it’s extremely simplified. The most touching moment for me thus comes from a line whose weight isn’t as obvious: “‘Cause I’m crazy and I’m sexy then I’m cool.” In interpolating TLC, and specifically applying such descriptors to herself, Monáe is acknowledging the musicians who have inspired her to feel confident and beautiful. She’s carrying the torch, and doing the same for a new generation.

Edward Okulicz: It’s good to hear her exhibiting such self-confidence in her lyrics, but her funk is tepid and some of her lines are pretty unimaginative. Evoking the mantra of mid-90s TLC just reminds me how much more TLC’s records moved and slinked with sexual menace, and this sways elegantly and smartly but doesn’t move an inch.

Vikram Joseph: Coming in the wake of a series of songs from Monáe about unadulterated sexual attraction, “I Like That” turns its focus inwards, a festival of joyful, indulgent self-love and affirmation. It shares the album as a whole’s primary (only?) flaw of occasionally oversimplifying its themes in search of big hooks, but then there’s “I’m the random minor note you hear in major songs” — which is perfect — and the rap at the end, with its wonderful pay-off: “I remember when you laughed when I cut my perm off, and you rated me a 6 … but even back then, with the tears in my eyes, I always knew I was the shit.” Whether she really did know that, or whether the passing of time and building of confidence has reconstructed those emotions, it’s a real fist-pump moment; an evisceration of past trauma through the prism of an emboldened sense of self. Which, I think, sums up what Janelle has meant to so many people this year.

Pedro João Santos: I was preparing to go to school when I got word about “I Like That”‘s surprise release. Upon first listen, a no-frills drop made sense for a sparser, cooler single, with its smooth assembly of gospel harmonies and trap vibrations. It deviated from the sensuous electro-funk throb of “Make Me Feel,” kept a fringe of “Django Jane”‘s ferocious stream-of-consciousness and sidestepped the unabashed pop froth of “Pynk” — only later did I recognize it as the paragon of Dirty Computer‘s sound and ethos, perhaps its centerpiece. It left me apathetic for at least five listens, thwarting Janelle’s odds of having The Album of 2018 (not a shock to say she’s now got a stranglehold on that title). Cut to the next week and it’s got me on the verge of tears. You’ve got to absorb it progressively, accepting to enter its velvet-crushed walls of thunderous bass, organ and guitar, and be cradled by the soulful backing oooohs, their powerfully melancholic resonance which goes on to overcome the song’s middle eight. It must have been when I really took in the story — of Janelle overcoming a schoolmate’s disregard with confidence — that I discerned the repressed hurt and disconnection beyond the boast of its words. And it was then that the record threw me against the wall, lifting the veil on my own fading memories of feeling unaligned for years as a child, the self-doubt upon rejection and tainted acceptance, the forcing upon myself that accepting the others’ mockery was a way of connecting with them… Back then, it took some time to accept a truth buried deep-down: that most of it was exogenous, some instinctual and envy-driven revolt against success and showing emerging signs of a personality at too young of an age — it’s the type of stuff that makes you a target. The deeper I crawled, the tighter my grip on that conviction, the louder I had to say it to myself. And that’s what I find implicit in her words, whose ostentation teems with a richer purpose, not just for showoff, but something greater — to amplify voices forced to quiescence or remitted to conformity. “But even back then with the tears in my eyes / I always knew I was the shit“: these verses are a mirror held up to hers, mine and millions’ pasts. It recalls that mist of assertion and sadness, which perfumes that ardent willingness to combat humiliation with whatever forces remain. It brings me back to wiping latent tears before anyone can tell, but also (correctly) believing that it’ll get better. Janelle has vindicated not only herself, but all of us who subconsciously needed it. We don’t have to alienate ourselves from what we are and cherish: I don’t really give a fuck if I was just the only one who likes that.

Reader average: [6.77] (9 votes)

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5 Responses to “Janelle Monáe – I Like That”

  1. Ian and Mo on the same wavelength

  2. just missed blurbing this but would have been an easy 8+

  3. which is even considering that it’s maybe not in my top 5 tracks off Dirty Computer, which is wild

  4. This song is so great

  5. Beat music site ever. I’ve been following you at least five years. ¡Felicidades! Do you need any kind of support?

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