“The whole world ’bout to testify,” Janelle Monáe promises on the song and music video for “Turntables.” It is the multifaceted artist’s first song since 2019’s “That’s Enough,” for the Disney+ live-action remake of Lady and the Tramp.
The song is featured in All In: The Fight for Democracy. Directed by Liz Garbus (What Happened, Miss Simone?) and Lisa Cortés (The Remix: Hip Hop X Fashion), the Amazon Studios documentary is about voter suppression which is being released in tandem with the studio’s #AllInForVoting bipartisan campaign. The campaign intends to inspire voter turnout during the 2020 presidential election season. And what is more inspiring than a Janelle Monáe song? Her last album, Dirty Computer, which was released two years ago, ended with the anthemic “Americans.”
Working with long-time collaborator Nate “Rocket” Wonder, Monáe amplifies the voices of people putting themselves on the front line. Directed by Child, the song’s accompanying emotion picture includes activists Angela Davis and Jillian Mercado, and New York’s U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It features archival and contemporary protest footage highlighting police brutality and racial oppression which evolves into Black empowerment and a hopeful cry for change.
Janelle Monáe was gerrymandered when last-minute changes to where she qualified to vote kept her from the polls when Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms ran for office in 2017. A year later 300,000 Georgians were ruled ineligible to vote when Stacey Abrams ran against Brian Kemp. “I saw Brian Kemp steal the election,” Monáe told Rolling Stone. “I told Stacey and her team that if y’all need anything, don’t hesitate to call.”
The singer, who has played such a variety of historical figures, answered the contemporary need in the tradition of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” and Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.” The film follows Abrams’ gubernatorial race while telling the history of voter suppression in the U.S. “You fuck up the kitchen, then you should do the dishes,” Monáe sings.
“In anticipation of the 2020 presidential election, All In: The Fight For Democracy examines the often overlooked, yet insidious issue of voter suppression in the United States,” reads the press statement. “The film interweaves personal experiences with current activism and historical insight to expose a problem that has corrupted our democracy from the very beginning. With the perspective and expertise of Stacey Abrams, the former Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, the documentary offers an insider’s look into laws and barriers to voting that most people don’t even know are threats to their basic rights as citizens of the United States.”