Janelle Monáe’s newly released Reggae single Lipstick Lover continues the American star’s love affair with Jamaican music, culture, and food.
The song, which will appear on her upcoming album The Age Of Pleasure, samples Mad Cobra‘s 1992 hit Flex, produced by Jamaicans Clifton ‘Specialist’ Dillon and Sly Dunbar, and co-written by Cobra, Handel Tucker, Brian Thompson, Richard Folks, and Herbert Harris. It also samples Stevie Wonder’s For Your Love (1995).
Flex has been previously sampled by OMI in Formula (2023), Justin Bieber on Stress (2017), Fifth Harmony and Fetty Wap on All In My Head (Flex) (2016), Fabolous and Trey Songz on Sex Wit Me (2016), Rihanna on Say It (2007), Beenie Man and Lil’ Kim on Fresh From Yard (2002), among many others.
Produced by Nate “Rocket” Wonder, Lipstick Lover is an earworm, shining on an upbeat yet mellow tempo, and makes full use of a few trademark Reggae elements – particularly, the off-beat rhythm guitar and syncopated basslines. The brief sample occurs in the second verse where Monáe sings in Mad Cobra’s style: “Baby, I’m obsessed, get me undressed.”
Cobra, Dillon, and all of the other contributors to Flex were credited as writers on the new song, which is billed as an ode to Monáe’s well-known love for women.
The 37-year-old singer, who is also an award-winning actress, came out as non-binary last year, according to the LA Times. People who identify as non-binary might consider themselves as being both male and female, somewhere in between, or completely outside these categories.
Lipstick Lover comes just a day after the Grammy-nominated singer shared a jaw-dropping teaser across social media, which seemingly paid homage to the Jamaica Tourist Board’s iconic 1972 poster featuring Trinidadian model Sintra Arunte-Bronte.
In the now viral clip, Monae ascends from a pool wearing a soaked, figure-hugging T-shirt with the word ‘Pleasure’ written across it. She stares at the camera as a snippet of Lipstick Lover’s backing track plays in the background, before offering a brief but revealing look at her bust as she walks by and out of frame.
In the original JTB shot, Sintra Arunte-Bronte posed wearing a wet T-shirt with ‘Jamaica’ written across it. In 2015, Alicia Keys attempted to recreate the iconic shot.
The full Lipstick Lover music video, directed by Monáe and Alan Ferguson, captures the star reveling in her queerness, baring everything for her fans to see.
If you’re not at work – watch the video below.
According to Monae, in a statement about the upcoming album, “As we enter into The Age Of Pleasure, Lipstick Lover is our freeassmothaf@#ka anthem inspired by f.a.m. for f.a.m. This is our audio oasis made with love and signed with cherry red kisses from me to you.”
In an interview with Apple Music’s ‘The Zane Lowe Show,’ she further dubbed the album a love letter to the diaspora. “These are the people I’m making it for. I want it to be so specific to this pan-African crowd who are my friends. I want it to be a love letter to the diaspora,” she said.
While Lipstick Lover serves as one of Monae’s more direct expressions of appreciation for Jamaican music and culture, her history is littered with small to significant moments in that vein.
In February, she released Float, the first single from her upcoming album, which also had elements of Reggae, and a guest appearance from Nigerian musician Seun Kuti (the youngest son of Fela) and his band Egypt 80.
Recently, the singer and actress made waves at the Met Gala when she told reporters that Jamaican food – and sex – were to be credited for her stunning physique.
Before that, the Grammy-nominated singer covered Bob Marley & The Wailers’ High Tide or Low Tide for Spotify after a trip to Jamaica, despite her known reluctance to perform covers.
However, she reasoned, “When I heard it [High Tide Low Tide], it touched my heart. This man [Bob Marley] wrote this song decades ago, but it’s still so relevant. I teleport every time I hear it.”
“I’m very selective about the cover songs that I choose and they mean so much to me. It’s really difficult because I spend so much time crying to them or dancing to them that I don’t remember the words. I just want to listen to it over and over again and I will not accept my voice over that artist’s voice.”
Further expounding on the song’s influence, and Reggae music’s by extension, Monae explained that she was inspired to become a better version of herself.
“I wanna be more kind, I wanna be more accepting, I wanna be more forgiving,” she said. “I want friends who are there for me during those high tides or low tides, all the ups and downs or highs and lows of life.”
She had also disclosed that Marley’s now 50-year-old classic, Catch A Fire, is one of her favorite albums of all time.
“I heard it [Catch A Fire] for the first time when I was in Jamaica. I was in Montego Bay, and I heard it and I cried. I was so moved, I could not understand how he was able to capture exactly how I want someone to treat me, exactly how I want to treat somebody else.”