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You’ve Sold Out’: Janelle Monae Faces Criticism Over Sexy “Yoga” Video

Avatar • Apr 15, 2015

yoga

When I watched Janelle Monáe’s new video for “Yoga,” featuring Jidenna, it absolutely brightened my day. I thought that Janelle did a great job embracing her own sexual being AND maintaining ownership of it, something that I think can get very blurry in the music industry. While I love artists like Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, I sometimes wonder if they cross the line from women’s empowerment over to existing for male consumption. After all, we can only twerk so much for fun until men think that we are only doing it for them and it’s a very fine line. But then again, whatever a woman chooses to do with her body is none of my/our business.

That’s why I was so surprised to see some people commenting on “Yoga” and declaring that Janelle has “sold out” to the oversexualization of women that is often criticized in the music industry. On the YouTube comments, some viewers suggested that she was forced to do the video or she let down black women as our spirit soul sister. I was also disappointed in TIME’s description of the video, which made it sound way more raunchy than it actually is, citing “private lessons” and referencing the traditional yoga closing “namaste” as “nama-nasty.” What makes this even more ironic is that in the same week, Monáe was criticized by a Twitter user for being too soulful and not sexy enough and her response was gold:

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Shut him down, Ms. Monáe! And with “Yoga,” I don’t think that anything has changed. While the video takes on a sexier approach than we are used to from Janelle and her signature suit, the vibe I caught was more of Janet Jackson’s “You Want This” rather than Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda.” She’s her “own private dancer” instead of a man’s. Watching the video, I feel like this is a song I would play while having a dance party with my girlfriends, not at the strip club while bands make her dance.

I think it’s also important to note that there isn’t one flavor of women’s empowerment or feminism — policing a woman towards either side of the spectrum is equally damaging. Some seem to have the perception that to be respected, especially as a black woman, you need to cover up and are only allowed to talk about building up the self esteem of black women (which also is very important). But we can also have a little bit of fun with it. Empowerment is about being comfortable in your own skin and knowing your worth, which Monáe clearly lets us know as she levitates in all white and a gold crown. Excuse me while I get my entire life (and look at that BRAID!).

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I think Ms. Monáe actually said it best — “You cannot police me, so get off my areola.” True story. Peep the video in full:

What do you think of Janelle Monáe’s new “Yoga” video? Are you on the fence or all for it?

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#RNSHESHSE
Guest
#RNSHESHSE

I don’t see this video as provocative at all! I’ve seen worst from artist such as Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Nikki Minaj! Just cause someone is conservative doesn’t mean she can’t have fun and do something different. These people are artist and that’s what they do!

J.Nicole
Guest

Some people think as a consumer they really have a say in a celebrities image & how they portray themselves. Even if she did switch it up to a full on tweak fest that’s her right to do so.

Jas
Guest
Jas

Some people are comfortable when you stay in their little box. When you step out of that box that’s when the problems begin. Janelle Monae looks good, sounds good and is allowed to express herself. The people who find fault with her are allowed to express themselves so why attempt to stifle someone else’s self expression.

Kind off topic, I will be working out harder. Video was inspiration to continue to get the body right. LOL

Ugonna Wosu
Guest
Ugonna Wosu

Isn’t the author only expressing herself too? And so are you, right? I think the author has as much right to criticize those criticizing Janelle, as they have to criticize janelle.

Jas
Guest
Jas

I reread my comment and nowhere did I disagreed with the author. You misread that.

The ones who try to stifle someones creativity or self expression wouldn’t want it to be to be done to them. That comment is in reference to those who had something negative to say on social media or anywhere else not the author. Maybe that’s the part you misinterpreted.

Guest
Guest
Guest

Have no problem with her being ‘sexy’ at all, that’s entirely her prerogative. My issue is with the fact that the song is utterly lame.

TheNaturalDoctor
Guest
TheNaturalDoctor

I have to agree. The song sucks musically and lyrically. I also expected the video to focus more on actually doing yoga not just moving around.

Tabatha
Guest
Tabatha

I think it’s a fun video. I mean it’s yoga and the moves are provocative looking, but trust and believe unless you are seasoned at it, you don’t feel sexy at all doing it. Your too busy trying to stop the screaming in your head from breaking your concentration. as you hear your instructor says, “Send the breath to where its tight. Breath and relax into the stretch, don’t fight it allow it to happen.” Men are just horny creatures and they think anything is for their consumption if they like it. I do yoga and Ariel arts and I… Read more »

Angie
Guest
Angie

AGREE!!! Great video! Full of energy and good vibes. The song itself im not a thrilled with but do see the sexual connection here. Janelle is at a great age of self identity.…she no longer needs reassurance but is instead testing her public comfort zones. This article is not necessary. And the video advertisements on this website are reallllllly slowing things down.

aly
Guest
aly

The author states that there is more than one flavour of empowerment, but then throws shade at other artists for possibly crossing the line based on how others perceive the artist’s actions, not how the artist feels about their own actions? Yeah, ok.

Elle
Guest
Elle

No, you got it wrong. I was saying that due to how the industry treats women (which is a known fact), I sometimes wonder if they are being coerced because the sexualization is so extreme, but I don’t know them personally or know who selected their clothes, dance moves, so I’m not worried unless they were to say they are being used.

fromanotherplanet
Guest
fromanotherplanet

I’m so sick of faux outrage and the predictable think pieces that follow. Bye!

Me
Guest
Me

She’s free to present herself however she feels most comfortable, and I’m free to support or not. I find it funny that some people will only allow her to be herself as long as her “self” reflects themselves and what they envision of herself. Even if our paths merge with others at certain points in our lives, no two people are ever destined to walk the exact same path, and that’s okay. Live and let live.

nononsense
Guest
nononsense

This is Disney tame compared to other videos out there. To me, this video strikes a balance between provocative and over-the-top. As far as criticism goes, she’s damned if she does, and damned if she doesn’t.

I don’t think Janelle Monae has sold out at all. I’m not a big fan of the song, but I get it. I hope it’s a hit, because she’s a refreshing change from a lot of the musical tripe out there.

kaybhart
Guest
kaybhart

Well written

janet
Guest
janet

soon be rihanna number two..

maralondon
Guest
maralondon

Not something i would want my little girl to watch or sing along to. As much as i appreciate Janelle as an artist this song sounds a lot like some of the other drivel i try not to pay attention to.

AliceUsagi
Guest
AliceUsagi

Good then don’t listen to it.

guest
Guest
guest

Not a song I want my child to listen to!’

Not every song is going to be targeted to children. Welcome to life.

AliceUsagi
Guest
AliceUsagi

Yep, and a lot of girls had a heart attack when Taylor Swift started making pop songs instead of country.

They’re artists, they should stick one genre because you said so?If she never do anything different then you complain about her staying in a box and not stepping out of her comfort zone. When she does something different now she’s a sell out.

I like the song, it’s catchy. If Taylor can make catchy songs that don’t have any substance, why can’t Janelle.

April
Guest
April

Janelle had me rolling with that line. It seemed like she had all of her friends in the video just having fun. I loved seeing Tessa Thompson in there. I think she was having fun and it really wasn’t as crazy as what a lot of other women and men put out. Not even close.

LotusGirl
Guest
LotusGirl

Yes and no. I can see why some people said she “sold out”, but at the same time I like that she put her own spin in it.

AliceUsagi
Guest
AliceUsagi

If she stays in her comfort zone then people would be complain she’s being lazy. If she does something different then she’s a sell out. Taylor Swift dealt with same criticism when she went mainstream.

Lv
Guest
Lv

Yep!

melissa
Guest
melissa

Seen the video. Nothing provocative about it. Looks like the kind of dancing/dance moves you do with your friends in your house. I think people are touched because she has never been that kind of artist (dancing in shorts etc) and they are not used to that. Its kind like when people are comfortable seeing you in a certain light they want you to stay there. When you move out of that, they dont like it because you distort their version of who they think you are. But I love it actually because she is showing a different side to… Read more »

marie
Guest
marie

with all the crappy songs coming out where men constantly refer to women as hoes and only sing about butts and boobs, and with women degrading themselves (shout out to Nicki in Anaconda) I would not mind my daughter listening to this song and dancing around with her friends, thinking of her body not as an object to attract men but as something that is hers…something she can have fun with (dancing around) and pair up with her mind to do amazing things.

Tobi Agbaje
Guest
Tobi Agbaje

Yeah, Janelle is simply experimenting with different sounds and “Yoga” is such a hot song! She is simply talking about the power woman have over their nown bodies. It’s great to see a woman celebrating and appreciating her sexuality rather than exposing her body for attention/sales. I was so shocked at the criticisms made because this type of music should be celebrated more. She’s a talented woman who is exploring herself, as humans we naturally do this. Why would you want to listen to the same sound all the time? People are just so familiar with woman presenting themselves as… Read more »

Dormowa
Guest
Dormowa

Too sexy? You’ve got to be kidding me. This video is an appropriate video for a hot song! You can’t please everyone and half of everyone aren’t worth pleasing…

vanx 2801
Guest
vanx 2801

Loved it! It was classy, sexy and flirtatious!

notconvincedgranny
Guest
notconvincedgranny

We have too many other people trying; can we please stop trying to lock each other down?

Kahara StayzinmyownlaneManley
Guest
Kahara StayzinmyownlaneManley

Love it and little girls aren’t supposed to be listening its for grown women she did a great job on the video some ppl are just stupid but we are entitled to have an opinion even if it is an effort to chop another person down smh

Alice Ebony Angel Kent
Guest
Alice Ebony Angel Kent

I love it and she should continue to do her thing. I love everything about this young lady. There is nothing wrong with this video. I am 60 yrs. old and love it.

Melissa
Guest
Melissa

You look fab!

Melissa
Guest
Melissa

I don’t get it. She is not one dimensional. It’s totally normal to step outside of whatever your fans are used to you doing. Keep us guessing. I think she would stagnate as an artist if she didn’t. In this world of scantily clad women… THIS video is too sexy and “selling out”?

Milos Mom
Guest
Milos Mom

Good lord… It is a fun song and video. People need to calm down. She can like sex also.

Honestly
Guest
Honestly

I really enjoyed this. Janelle wasn’t too scantily clad and it looked like they were genuinely having a good time. I see the actress from “Dear White People” were in it. I thought it was cute.

Lena Justine
Guest
Lena Justine

I absolutely love her new song #YOGA. I’m always such a big supporter.

Likewaterforchoc
Guest
Likewaterforchoc

Thanks! Everything is NOT for the consumption of children. It’s like when I hear women say that TV shows like Scandal and Empire are setting a bad example to children. 1. They are TV shows and 2. They have adult content. These are things that you as a parent should be ensuring that your children and NOT consuming. When I was a kid, there was music and TV shows that I could watch/listen to and those I could not. It was just that simple. I never understood that when people have children they decide that everything needs to be deemed… Read more »

LeNette
Guest
LeNette

Never mind the sexy images in the video, the song itself was just okay, in my opinion. Yes, Janelle has done something different with her image but I don’t think her image is what was necessarily keeping her from moving to the next level. I think Janelle Monae is very talented but I’d like to see her with a different producer. In my opinion, she’s never quite as successful as she should be and I don’t think it’s because she’s not sexy enough. While Bruno Mars, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran and Maroon 5 are at the top of the charts… Read more »

FromTokyo
Guest
FromTokyo

Some of Monae’s stuff just sounds weird or too self-indulgent”

Not trying to be rude, but you might need to expand your musical horizon. Her stuff is “tame” compared to a lot of what’s out there beyond the mainstream. Her music sounds normal to me at this point. Her lyrics are great and meaningful compared to most mainstream music, though.

valeriesmith15
Guest
valeriesmith15

Janelle Monae is a genus, love the video.

Shakis
Guest
Shakis

Ummm I didn’t see anything wrong with the video. I’m confused as to why people are making stupid comments about it. I love this song I just don’t get who’s she’s referring to when she says “baby bend over let me see you do that yoga.” Lol

Adrienne Chukwuneta
Guest
Adrienne Chukwuneta

First off, I love Janelle Monae (Tightrope all the way!!!) I personally don’t care for the song… but I also don’t see anything “sexual” about this song. What she’s wearing may “reveal” skin, but it’s nothing when compared to most female musicians who literally have their va***as hanging out of their leotard outfits. There is absolutely NOTHING in this video that qualifies as Janelle “Selling Out” to sexualism in today’s music. Jeans and a crop top.… leggings and a crop top… nothing sexual there. For those people saying Janelle “sold out”, I highly recommend that you really want to see… Read more »

Emma W
Guest
Emma W

Thanks for the link to this video. I think I’ll use these bum bum shaking moves on my husband — he might appreciate them! 😉 I think it’s amazing how some people are obsessed with bums. So many songs about bums in the last year.
Also, I agree, in my opinion, Janelle’s video wasn’t overtly sexual in nature.

Adrienne Chukwuneta
Guest
Adrienne Chukwuneta

Same! I swear, everything that comes on the radio today is nothing but “booty, booty booty.” It’s quite redundant and irritating. There’s more to life than a muscle people!

FromTokyo
Guest
FromTokyo

My favorite group of all time changed their sound and style with every album, so I love when artists try different things. The problem I have is that the song is not good enough for Janelle based on what she’s put out up to this point. Her music was awesome. This is generic. I actually get what some people are feeling — they’re worried that she’s going to change into being like all the other pop stars, which we have seen happen a LOT. It’s rare for a female artist to NOT become more sexualized once she starts to get… Read more »

Ronnie
Guest
Ronnie

I agree with you about the lyrics. Lyrics are great and meaningful. I wasn’t talking about her songwriting ability. I was talking about lyrics. I was talking about the musical composition, arrangement, instrumentation — her hooks are not catchy enough. “Tightrope” is the song that experienced the most commercial success because it was tightly written and appealed to a wider audience. The rest of her music appeals to a more narrow audience. I feel she needs better producers. If you liker her great, different strokes for different folks. I don’t like her current batch of music, she doesn’t chart the… Read more »

SunChild
Guest
SunChild

I know I’m late to this, but yes, you said what needed to be SAID. No one is giving critique to her actual *music* as in arrangements, production, etc. I realized by that second EP, she needed to either part with her producers or they reaaaaally need to step their game up on true creativity & musicianship (definitely not including Kalindo bc he’s got it) and not just straight up steal elements of hits from famous ppl like MJ, baby MJ, Fela, James, Stevie, Sly, and now making beats sounding JUST like “Fancy”. They need to stop. Like it might… Read more »

Annie
Guest
Annie

Well she looks like a cheap pornstar, but hey, if that’s what she’s going for then okay, lol

Emma W
Guest
Emma W

I disagree

Nyna Jalysse Nickelson
Guest
Nyna Jalysse Nickelson

so apparently you’ve never watched porn. high waist pants and crop tops = porn star? So i guess that’s how many women in the 90’s made a living >< lol!

mmmdot
Guest
mmmdot

::Sigh::There’s something about Black women who are willing
to show off their bodies and own their own sexual expression WITHOUT
SHAME that enrages many people — including Black folks who inflict
respectability politics on Black women.

April Lamba
Guest
April Lamba

I noticed when a black woman wears appropriate clothing that may flaunt her natural curves she is seen as slutty, while a non-black woman wearing the SAME outfit (ex. how many white women do you see wearing yoga pants? How many are called pornstar?) will be seen as classy, sexy. For some reason black women can’t be sexy, either asexual (mammy) or slutty (Jezebels). Racism 101.

Maria Gaski
Guest
Maria Gaski

The song is so-so but she looks flawless, as always and looks like she is having fun.…. its light weight body movements… appropriate with the music.…. its a ” G” rated video.

Moon Starr
Guest
Moon Starr

I first heard the song on an online clip from some music award show. I honestly thought it was a joke — or that she was being ironic or satirical… Mostly because of the “baby bend over — let me see you do the yoga” line. I thought she was illuminating how sacred ideas and practices are peddled for mass consumption, distorted, sexualized, and/or sold for profit. Sooo… Yeah. I’d leave it up to her to say what the song and video mean to her. Otherwise, it’s just someone else attempting to define an artist and control the flow of… Read more »

eton
Guest
eton

But is nobody going to talk about the cultural appropriation that’s going on…?
Ms. Monae and pretty much all of her music has been such an inspiration and source of empowerment for me. But the song “Yoga” is disrespecting a spiritual practice that has already been appropriated and misconstrued by western countries. I’m disappointed that she would also contribute to the sexualization and commercialization of such a revered and sacred spiritual tradition, especially as a black woman who knows all to well how mainstream can co-opt and appropriate elements of black culture without giving due credit or respect.

Sh3rae
Guest
Sh3rae

What do you not understand? She sold out. She went on and on about her ‘uniform’ then sells out to pepsi. People prob wouldnt be so bugged if she hadn’t gone on defense mode and just owned it. She’s heading mainstream.

Girlboy1238
Guest
Girlboy1238

The lyrics say “baby bend ova,” and there are plenty of shots focused on certain body parts. It’s fair to say there’s a bit of sexuality going on here. If she’s expressing her sexuality, so be it, but if you’re showing off your sexuality “without shame” as someone said, you really can’t be upset that the public that you’re exposing yourself to just may have an opinion about it. That’s just something that comes with being an artist who puts her craft on display.

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