Janelle Monáe on the Music in her Life

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Janelle Monáe has been called a style provocateur; an individual cleverly redefining the modern idea of the musical artist.  And she is someone who has done this the only way imaginable – her own. We recently sat down with Janelle to talk about what music inspires her, what makes her tick, and what we can expect from the newest Sonos artist and COVERGIRL.

Sonos: Huge thanks again to you and your friends and creative collaborators The Wondaland Arts Society for appearing in our new ad campaign and opening  the Wondaland headquarters to us for the shoot.

Janelle Monáe: We had a great time working on the video. I think it really shows the Wondaland Arts Society in full effect and reflects our energy, our aesthetic and some of the people and music we love. I’ve had great feedback from people that enjoyed seeing it.

Sonos: You’ve been a busy woman this year- touring the world, performing at the White House, and being chosen as the newest face of Sonos and COVERGIRL. How do these diverse live events and new experiences help you stay inspired while writing new music?

JM: I’ve been fortunate to meet so many diverse people from different walks of life. I listen to their stories and it inspires me to want to write music to help guide them through life. No matter where you come from you still need inspiration. Life is full of highs and lows. I aim to uplift.

Sonos: We recently saw you cover “I Want You Back” at the AfroPunk festival. How influential are Motown hits to your performance style?

JM: I’m thankful to Berry Gordy for putting out such incredible soulful timeless acts. I would have never discovered 2 of my favorite voices, “little Michael Jackson,” and Stevie Wonder, had he not. He was one of the inspirations behind the record label I co-founded, The Wondaland Arts Society. We study how Motown released music in the 60’s and 70’s a lot. They have a great blueprint.

Janelle Monae with Berry Gordy
Janelle Monae with Berry Gordy

Sonos: Tell us about the Wondaland Arts Society and how that project started. Are there any artists or recommended songs we should keep an eye out for?

JM: The Wondaland Arts Society is an arts collective and independent recording label I co-founded with Nate Wonder & Chuck Lightning. Roman GianArthur & Deep Cotton are my label-mates and are dynamic self-produced artists the world needs to know.  I get my wildest listening experiences listening to their music. Check out Deep Cotton’s song “We’re Far Enough From Heaven Now We Can Freak Out” on https://www.sonos.com/listeningisback/janellemonae and in our commercial!

Sonos: What is your Sonos-style? How do you use listen to music at home?

JM: I have several SONOS Play:3’s and Play:5’s around our studio and in each room of my house. Having SONOS really makes listening to all my favorite music and discovering music from around the world easy.

Sonos: Okay – if you had to choose five songs that influenced you the most? Which would they be?


– The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill – Lauryn Hill
– Bombs Over Baghdad – OutKast
– Let’s Go Crazy – Prince
– Girl Blue – Stevie Wonder
– Shape of Things to Come – Max Frost & The Troopers

Sonos: What was the first album you ever bought? 

JM: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Sonos: What was the first concert you attended?

JM: Smoking Grooves Tour with Outkast, Erykah Badu, & George Clinton Parliament Funkadelic

Sonos: Who are your favorite artists right now?

JM: Deep Cotton and Roman GianArthur. They’re exciting, self-produced, visionary new artists.

The Deep Cotton track Janelle mentions is currently burning up the iTunes and Billboard charts. Get a free download here. And if you haven’t already, check out the Sonos/Janelle Monáe collaboration videos here. Outside of being a talented musician with impeccable style, Janelle Monáe continues to be a creative force with the Wondaland Arts Society. We’re excited for our Sonos Artist and can’t wait to see what’s next.

Don’t forget! For a chance to WIN a Sonos wireless hifi speaker system and get FREE downloads of new songs from Janelle Monáe’s Wondaland Arts Society visit: https://www.sonos.com/listeningisback/janellemonae