Victoria Monét Embraces The Power of Sensuality on 'Jaguar II' Album
This feature is in our Summer "Music" Issue. Click here to subscribe.
PHOTO BY AMBER ASALY
There is power in sensuality and Victoria Monét (@victoriamonet) channels that effortlessly. After whisking us away to a glittery ’70s-inspired world with 2020’s Jaguar, the artist is showcasing even more of her multifaceted nature with this summer’s Jaguar II. Read on for our lengthy and inspiring chat.
How are you doing? I know you recently did the Spotify Show and you seem like you're in a good place right now.
Yeah, I am really happy. I'm floating still, from the show. A week before that I was in Jamaica, shooting a music video. So I’m feeling really excited for all things to come and trying to enjoy the process, as I've had the music for quite some time. Now, I’m just trying to allow all of the good things to flow to me and the team and see what people respond to musically. I'm just curious about other things that people will gravitate toward when the music is out. So I'm definitely in a really good headspace.
Were you shooting the “Party Girls” video?
Yeah, I was shooting Party Girls, Buju’s on the song, and so I went out to Jamaica to shoot it with him.
My family is Jamaican. So when I heard Buju Banton -- who's also in this issue -- I got so excited. That was the first song I played when I got the preview. It’s one of the highlights for me because it shows you could really do any genre that you feel like, so it was nice to see.
Thank you. Only a few people are aware, just because maybe they've heard me do other types of songs in the studio. They've heard my voice on a pop song, as a demo, or even country songs that I was writing before. It's really cool to be able to tap into that on this project and open people's minds up a bit more to the possibilities of the next project. I know people are really sold that it's a 70s-inspired retro-future type of musical project. I think I would love to have the surprise factor, and maybe the next project doesn't feel the same. This is kind of like dipping my toe into being genre-less and free. Combining more things to make even a new feel and a new style of music. So I was really excited to be able to work with him, too, my mom was a huge fan. Growing up, I was hearing his music, so it's really full circle for me to actually have music with him, myself.
Jaguar II includes singles like “Smoke” with Lucky Daye and “Party Girls” with Buju Banton. PHOTOS BY AMBER ASALY
When I interviewed you back in 2020 for Jaguar, you told me that you wanted to have that Motown feel—an interpretation of something similar to Earth, Wind and Fire. Speaking of full circle, they’re on this record, so I feel like you manifested that moment.
I'm so glad that I spoke to you then, because you have a really good idea of where my mental space was, then and now, and you can see how things can really come to life. You just have something in your head and you subconsciously may manifest or if you talk about it enough,, maybe it'll come to you. That's another really big highlight for me on the project is having the stamp of approval or legends like this. I know that they've done and seen so many things and artists throughout their careers, so it just means so much that they would lend their voices and their styles to my music, even though it's new. There's really no trail of huge success and benefit to them in my head, so it's really dope that they are singing mostly off of what they feel. They like the music, they like the energy we have together and they're down to collaborate. It makes me really happy, and it's like a cool thing that I could always say whenever the day is not going well. I can always be like, “ But I do have that Earth, Wind and Fire feature!” It makes things feel better.
Victoria Monét is as confident as ever. PHOTOS BY AMBER ASALY
I love that. You mentioned the element of surprise earlier. I like that you stepped away from the Motown sound because I do agree with you—people would have been expecting that for Jaguar II. Listening to it feels like transitioning into different decades. There are elements of '70s sound, but there's sensual '90s R&B and homages to '00s hip hop. I think you're challenging yourself.
Definitely. Since I listen to music from the '60s and '70s, I can randomly hear a new song and be able to place certain samples. I feel like, by basing my sound on the '70s, using live instrumentation and cross-bending modern lyrics with that sound, it feels like I'm just sampling. If a song feels more current, it's almost like I've just sampled the 70s song because it's in the heart of it, but it still feels like today’s music. It's really cool that you hear that, and I'm not pigeonholed to a certain sound that people would otherwise people will turn away from. A lot of artists go through that, people being like, “We want the old you back!” So I love when Jay Z is like, “Well go get my old album, then.” I’m going to keep going.
Jaguar was so sensual and showed a different side of you. You previously told me that you were out of the jungle now, which I thought was so beautiful. I think with Jaguar II, you sound even more confident. You're more self-aware of who you want to be as an artist. I’m curious to know what you think your musical growth has been.
I think that just physically, I've been through a lot from Pt. 1 to Pt. 2. Having a baby in between changes your perspective about yourself, your body and how powerful you feel by being able to create life. Going through all of the motions, all the ups and downs of that and being able to come back full circle and still commit to doing what you love, gives you a certain confidence and makes you feel a confirmation for yourself that you really do love this. You really can make it out of anything, you can do anything. I think it does make you feel and speak more confidently. Even my voice has gotten deeper.
I was going to say it sounds more velvety.
I think having a baby changes your voice a lot.
After Beyoncé had her twins, even with Blue, her voice was deeper. When Rihanna did the Super Bowl, her voice was much deeper. I think pregnancy plays a role.
Definitely, I did hear that—also, just age. As you get older, your voice deepens and does its own thing. It's almost like girls hit puberty, vocally, a little bit later. I guess for guys, you'd hear it at 13 or 14, but for girls, it's like 28 through 35. You can hear differences, but I want to welcome those changes and let it be shown in my music and by my choices in the writing as well, to make that feel more apparent and just go with it. I didn't try to be old Victoria, because, in every way, I'm a new version of myself. I can never be Jaguar Pt. 1 Vic again, so I'm hoping the music shows that.
PHOTO BY: AMBER ASALY
Speaking of motherhood, how did giving birth to Hazel and becoming a mom inspire your creativity?
It’s really about impressing her, I want to be a cool mom. When she grows up, I want her to be able to see that a lot of accolades came even after her birth. Even when she, God willing, has children of her own, she’ll be able to understand the workload that it takes to be a mom. I just want her to be proud of it and inspire her to be able to do whatever it is that she wants to do in the same way. I just hear a lot of stories about moms who feel like they couldn’t continue whatever their dreams were because they had a baby. I feel like it creates so much resentment for the baby. When the child grows up and is able to hear that come out, they feel bad, even though it wasn’t even their choice. I want to make sure that’s never our narrative and that after she was born, I was even more inspired to go get what it is I dreamed of and wanted since I was a little girl. So it definitely has made me more business savvy and very good at time management because all of my free time is allotted to her first. She gets first dibs. It also makes you evaluate any relationship that you have with friends, family and whoever is surrounding you. If you’re on the same page, and if they’re supportive of our parenthood, or if they’re wanting to drag you into a certain type of lifestyle that isn’t conducive to being a great parent. It really changes your life, completely, but in the best ways.
That's beautiful. She sounds like she has some pipes on her pretty early. Just from what I see on Instagram is that she takes after her mom.
She's singing everything. She woke me up this morning singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” She loves music. She's beatboxing when she hears beats that she likes, and she’s on-beat. I'm just so proud to see her gravitate toward music without a push from me. She's loving it already on her own. I know that I have to get my chops up because she's probably going to be the type that's like, “Mommy, we're flat.” I’m not going to say the name of the artist but I put on an album yesterday while driving and she was like, “No, I don't like that. I don't like that.” She's very opinionated. Might have a little A&R on my hands. I want to make sure I have her always musically inclined. If she's showing interest, just starting to play piano, get ear training, she's doing dance lessons. We just put her in soccer, so we're spreading it out so that she doesn't feel like it's only a music family, but also physical activity and good learning stuff.
The singer performing at the kickoff of Spotify’s “R&B First Nights” at El Rey in Los Angeles on March 31. PHOTO BY DIGGZY
For artists, sometimes you may feel that pressure to release immediately. I’d love to know the importance of not rushing the creative process. I think that's ultimately what makes your music so strong; it doesn’t feel like you’re rushing to create a project.
I really don't see a reason to rush, unless you genuinely feel your body of work has a certain time that needs to come out, or if you're trying to go through an experience that has the fans get instant gratification with a quick return. I don't really have that desire or scenario and I do find it really important to take your time so you can revisit and analyze things and do the tweaks. If you were to put something out that you rushed, you risk so much regret. Quincy Jones, I believe, is the one who said one of the most important parts of a song is the space. I feel the same way about the space between albums or the space that you have to live your life and experience new things. I think also, a lot of it comes from me being the songwriter I'm aware of my music. I don't really have the ability to promote a project and tour, and while I'm on tour, have a bunch of songwriters work on it in my absence. It's just not my process. I need the time myself to explore, figure out what I want to say, find the best versions of me and my songs, take time to step away, revisit, share it with people that I love and get opinions. It's just a whole process, so I really do value the space in between. Even though I know as a fan, it's really hard. I know, we waited for SZA for a really long time, but she came back and killed it. I know it comes from a place of love, but I hope that fans know that because I took my time, it hits the spot more than it would have if I just released it quickly.
It’s worth the wait, for sure. My favorite song is “Cadillac.” Even though I'm from New York, it makes me channel my inner Southern girl. It's just a boss bitch anthem. The way that you're singing is so smooth—literally like cognac.
With that song in particular, when I think of pimps, people who are on top or people who are bad, it comes down to males. I feel like there are so many badass women in the world, and we need our anthem to say so. My family's from the South, and while I was born in Atlanta, I moved when I was three and grew up in Sacramento. I feel like when I listened back to “Cadillac,” though, it just made me need to lean back in an old-school car and have a cigar or something. I definitely understand what you mean by Southern Boutique. The horns feel very Southern, which I’m obsessed with. I think that comes from Earth, Wind and Fire and their arrangements, but it translates into HBCU culture, big bands and a southern feel for sure. My mom was from Mobile, Alabama, so we used to go to Mardi Gras there often. I'm used to the second line and the horns and the bands parading through the streets, things I’ve always been inspired by.
PHOTO BY AMBER ASALY
You place a lot of effort in creating a full package. You not only give us music, but an entire story.
I find it really important because I think music is a beautiful sensory experience. When you involve your eyes, it adds another element to why people would be interested, fall in love and understand the world even more dynamically. My team and I do a good job of communicating and planning things out. It's almost overkill, it’s really meticulous in how we plan our content, posts and color themes. I'm glad to see that it's appreciated by people and they're noticing that because it is a lot of effort in addition to the music and the steps that go with that. I really am having a good time. I think that the skit content allows me time to be unserious. It allows me to be goofy, fun, let my shoulders down and not worry so much about charts and numbers. It's just an opportunity to have fun and laugh.