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Janelle Monae Was Going to Cover Migos, But Then She Took a Trip to Jamaica

Funk goddess explains her decision to cover Bob Marley in Spotify’s Under Cover podcast

Janelle Monae performs at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club, in Indio, Calif2019 Coachella Music And Arts Festival - Weekend 1 - Day 1, Indio, USA - 12 Apr 2019

Janelle Monae performs at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club, in Indio, 12 Apr 2019

Amy Harris/Invision/AP/REX/Shutt

Janelle Monáe doesn’t do cover songs that often. “I’m very selective about the cover songs that I choose and they mean so much to me,” she said on Spotify’s Under Cover podcast. “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.”

Monáe originally had her heart set on Migos’ “Stir Fry” when she agreed to partake in Spotify’s Singles Series. “I was gonna do this real like, funky version of it,” she said. But then Monáe went to Jamaica, where she heard “High Tide or Low Tide,” by Bob Marley and the Wailers. “When I heard it, it touched my heart,” she recalled. “This man wrote this song decades ago, but it’s still so relevant. I teleport every time I hear it.”

Monáe first got into Bob Marley because of her musical hero, Lauryn Hill. “I was and I still am extremely obsessed with her,” she said. After hearing Hill’s version of “Turn Your Lights Down Low,” she delved into Marley’s entire catalogue. “Catch a Fire is one of my favorite albums,” she said. “I heard it 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.”

“High Tide or Low Tide” inspires Monáe to be a more loving person. “I wanna be more kind, I wanna be more accepting, I wanna be more forgiving,” she asserted. “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.”

 

 

Monáe covered the reggae track last year with her Dirty Computer band at Spotify Studios. “I try to keep a really encouraging team around me and I’ve been thankful over the years up until now to have people’s ears that I trust,” she said. “The hardest thing is just me, because I tend to lean on the more perfectionist side. You can listen to the recording of a song and instantly I think it can transform you into being a more loving person. Music has that power.”

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