Victoria Monét Discusses Her Assertive Debut Album “Jaguar”
The R&B songwriter’s album is for “the women who like to say what’s on their mind.”
Victoria Monét does not want to intimidate you. The singer-songwriter has been around the music scene for several years, writing alongside pop heavy-hitters like Fifth Harmony and her close pal Ariana Grande, in addition to releasing a couple two-part EPs Nightmares & Lullabies and Life After Love. Even with so much experience under her belt, she’s in no hurry to thrust herself into the spotlight, but evolve alongside it. This patience and ease has paid off. Her forthcoming release Jaguar is her strongest yet, while also portraying Monét at her happiest and most relaxed.
“I feel that with my fans, and people in general, we’re still in the dating phase. If I put twelve or forty songs on a project, it’s like going on a date and talking too much. I’m just trying to keep someone’s attention enough to give them a window into my world,” she tells me while sipping on a glass of Prosecco.
I met Monét in the bar of the Lower Manhattan hotel back in February to discuss her latest work. “If they want to dive in deeper there’s plenty of work there. It might be overwhelming to see a new artist and just have too big a body of work to digest. You might be intimidated by the number and move on. I just try to microdose it,” she continues.
Jaguar is sleek and poised, just like the animal it takes its name from. Confident strings accompany Monét, either slithering alongside her sensual falsetto or emphasizing her forthcoming swagger. The first portion of the two-halved release is as luxurious as plum satin sheets. It’s a work that takes us from a candle-lit bedroom to a lush, dense jungle; it exists between reality and fantasy. “Maybe because I’m an only child I always feel more attached to the dream world, the fantasy, the underground of things, the behind the scenes, the Wizard of Oz magic stuff. That comes out a lot in my music. I do try my best to be clear, but not blunt. None of my songs are going to be like, ‘Come fuck me,’ but it’s a beautiful way, a poetic way, of saying really obvious things,” she says.
“Maybe older people can listen to it, and if they don’t read the lyrics they can be like, ‘I like that girl,’” she continues with a laugh. “But as soon as they read anything it will be like…‘Oh no.’” Monét is referring to playful sensuality that is a dominant force in her lyrics. Take the squeaky, smart-mouthed song “Dive.” Its opening verse paints a visceral image that the woman she’s talking to has more to offer than her lovely words. “You’re saying everything I like / I could watch your lips move all night / Making me think you might have the type of brain I like.” But Monét isn’t hinting at sapiosexuality. Instead, she has high hopes for her affection’s “head-game.”
“None of my songs are going to be like, ‘Come fuck me,’ but it’s a beautiful way, a poetic way, of saying really obvious things.”
“I think my music is something a kid would be singing but not know what they’re singing until a lot later. I try to keep it pretty, but also say what I’m trying to say at the same time,” she continues. Monét’s songwriting superpower is how she narrates sexuality and autonomy. “Supersonic, pussycat / Just like a jaguar silky black / So let me climb your wood like that / You got nine times to come get that,” she sings stealthily, all in one breath, on the title track. She tells me that her writing is empowering even if people try to protest her forwardness.
“It’s assertive and taking the power into our own hands as women.” She mentions fellow songwriter Summer Walker and her groundbreaking hit “Girls Need Love,” which opens with her honest desire: “I just need some dick.” Monét admires that relatability and the destruction of the double standard. “Before our time, that would have been frowned upon, but guys could have a whole whisper song talking about how ‘I’m gonna beat that pussy up,’ you know what I mean? It’s nice for women to just say what we’re thinking, too, because we be thinking that stuff! We definitely be thinking it, but it’s not ‘ladylike.’ We have to sit with our legs crossed,” she groans.
“There’s still going to be conservatives who are like, ‘I would never!’ That’s fine for them. They can go listen to the gospel medleys. I’m just trying to make a certain music for the people that have those thoughts,” she pauses. “My music is PornHub in a beautiful way. For the people who like porn, they can look it up. For the women who like to say what’s on their mind, then come to see my Spotify, Apple Music page. I just want the option to be there. I’ll still listen to Kirk Franklin though, no shade.”
And even though Monét is looking to revolutionize how we think about who has the power to sing about sex without being exploited, she’s still drawing from past eras for inspiration. She’s looking to modernize old-school sounds and live recording with progressive lyricism. Jaguar took inspiration from her idol’s idols. Life After Love had a plastic, late-’90s pop sheen; it grappled with tumultuous heartbreak and drew from TLC, Missy Elliott, and Janet Jackson.
“My music is PornHub in a beautiful way. For the people who like porn, they can look it up. For the women who like to say what’s on their mind.”
“I feel like experiencing those things that my idols did, I wanted to draw away from that so I could find where their inspiration came from. I feel it’s like that ’60s, ’70s stuff—what their parents grew up on. I’m not saying I want to be like Donna Summer, completely disco. But I want to keep going deeper into this era specifically and make it a part of today’s era in my own way. It feels right,” she explains. Inspired by Earth, Wind, & Fire and spacious instrumental breaks allowed for vibes like “When your parents are dancing in the living room then there’s a moment where you can grab the broom and sing, but you don’t always have to.”
Jaguar is a whole new chapter for Monét that refines her wit and hip-shaking harmonies.“I feel like this is more authentically my roots. I think the ’90s and heartbreak and everything is a layer that I needed to fall through to experience what it really is that I love. It’s just growing in front of people.” FL