Why Janelle Monáe Says 1 ‘I May Destroy You’ Moment ‘Brought Tears To My Eyes’

Like so many in the U.S. and U.K., singer Janelle Monáe tuned in to the BBC One and HBO series I May Destroy You. But while most of the acclaimed show’s audience was moved by the creator and star Michaela Coel’s very personal narrative, Monáe had an additional reason to feel connected to the powerful work.

Janelle Monáe is a musician and actor

Janelle Monáe attends the 51st NAACP Image Awards on February 22, 2020 in Pasadena, California.
Janelle Monáe attends the 51st NAACP Image Awards on February 22, 2020 in Pasadena, California. | Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET

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As an artist, Monáe broke out in 2010 with her debut album single, “Tightrope.” She’s earned seven Grammy nominations, releasing three studio albums and just 20 singles. But not only is Monáe a singer, songwriter, and rapper who earned the attention of Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, she’s also an actor.

Monáe’s music has been used in several notable projects, including the horror movie Us and shows like Insecure and Silicon Valley. Additionally, she recorded songs for her own movies, including animated film Ugly Dolls, the semi-live-action remake of Lady and the Tramp, and the Oscar-nominated Hidden Figures.

‘Pynk’ received attention for its feminist message

In 2018, Monáe released her third studio album, Dirty Computer. It was her first not to follow the Metropolis narrative she set up in previous EPs and LPs. Following singles “Make Me Feel” and “Django Unchained,” Monáe released the album’s third single, “Pynk.”

“Pynk,” which features the vocals of Grimes, is a “celebration of creation, self love, sexuality and pussy power.,” according to Monáe herself (via Rolling Stone). The accompanying video, which features Thor: Love and Thunder actor Tessa Thompson, earned a Grammy nomination for Best Music Video.

The song is featured in ‘I May Destroy You’

I May Destroy You follows Arabella (played by Coel) as she and her friends cope with rape and sexual assault in various forms. Coel wrote the show after she, herself, was raped. “The fact that she was able to turn her pain and her trauma into something that so many people can relate to is not a small feat,” Monáe told Entertainment Weekly.

“Pynk” is heard in Episode 5 “…It Just Came Up,” after Arabella publicly exposes a fellow writer and finds comfort in the supportive voices online. “Having ‘Pynk’ be at that moment where she’s trying to survive and overcome this traumatic event, and that song was able to comfort her and put a smile on her face, brought tears to my eyes,” Monáe continued.

What other Monáe songs featured in the series?

While “Pynk” played in a relatively positive moment, a few of Monáe’s other songs are used in one of a decidedly different tone. The finale, “Ego Death,” features dreamlike vignettes in which Arabella finally remembers and confronts her rapist from the first episode, David, in various ways.

Three songs from her 2010 debut studio album The ArchAndroid play in succession during one of these. The first, “Dance or Die,” as Arabella, and her friends follow David after he’s been drugged; the second, “BabopbyeYa,” as Arabella attacks and seemingly kills him; and the third, “Suite II Overture,” as she brings his body back to her apartment.