Victoria Monét isn’t exactly new to the music scene, but the songwriter is inching closer and closer into the limelight. In April, audiences initially got a feel for what her next era would sound like, with a joint collaboration, “Monopoly”, with Ariana Grande. But in October, she released the song that would set the tone for her new era — “Ass Like That” — a sassy, booty admiration anthem full of hypnotic hooks. “The song really reflects what I’ve been going through this year,” Monét says over the phone from Los Angeles. “Last January I started working with a trainer and I told him about certain things I wanted to accomplish with my body.” Since she usually writes from a personal perspective, it makes sense that her focus on fitness spills out into her music; at the moment, Monét also happens to be on the way to her trainer.
Alongside her solo career, Monét has stayed busy as a songwriter. Co-writing for Ariana Grande on songs like “Thank U, Next” and “7 Rings,” she’s cemented a friendship with her that began with hanging out and became flying out to visit her on tour. “Somewhere along the line, friendship became more valuable to us than our musical relationship,” Monét says. She has also built up her resume with writing credits for Fifth Harmony, T.I. and Nas.
Born in Sacramento, California, Monét grew up in a musical family – her grandpa played the saxophone and the bass and her mom, aunt and grandma sang. “Music was around me at a young age but I was really, really shy at the beginning, so I gravitated more toward dance. It still involved music but I didn’t have to speak,” she tells me. By the time Monét entered high school, though, she became keen on writing and poetry and became a friend’s ghostwriter. Through that, she found her way into songwriting. “My mom happened to introduce me to someone she knew who used to play the bass for Janet Jackson; he was nice enough to give me one of his beats and I wrote one of my first songs to it,” she recalls. While Monét, now 26, still keeps a lot of the harmony sound she had in high school, she admittedly has “gotten better” as a songwriter.
Top MANNING CARTELL, 2nd top ALICE MCCALL
Top MANNING CARTELL, 2nd top ALICE MCCALL
For Monét, being a multifaceted artist was always key. She had originally told her grandma she wanted to be a triple threat: a singer, a dancer, and an actress. At the beginning of her career, the singer-songwriter moved to LA to be in a girl group called Purple Reign, later signing a record deal with Motown. But a bad deal prompted her to start songwriting as another form of income. “[My] songwriting took off before my [own music] so it wasn’t like I made a decision, I was trying to do both,” she explains. “Now I’m just trying to even the playing field.” For her that means aspiring to be like The-Dream, Ne-Yo and Smokey Robinson – having both a successful songwriting career and a successful artist career. But Monét isn’t blind to the challenge that poses. “I think it’s hard to have them both be just as successful at the same time, so I’m trying to balance things out now,” she says.
In 2014, Monét released her debut EP Nightmares & Lullabies: Act 1 with a follow-up EP, Nightmares & Lullabies – Act 2, in 2015 under Atlantic Records. Three years later, she released her third EP: Life After Love, Pt. 1. Her focus has since been oscillating between songwriting for other artists and her own craft. Between releases, Monét would end up touring with Fifth Harmony in 2016, where she witnessed what Normani had to endure in middle America with racism from people on Twitter and in the audience. “Because she was a black woman in the group, they were calling her names and tweeting her inappropriate things and she would cry,” says Monét. “I think it’s sad to see that racism like this still exists when we’re able to hide it in L.A., and we live in a fairytale world where everyone’s creative and free but it’s still very much a big issue, so I’m totally 100% in support of her being the superstar she is. I think she would inspire and help a lot of young girls who look and feel just like her feel seen, and feel like they can do whatever it is they want.” “Ass Like That” marks a new beginning for Monét, as she’ll be releasing her next full-length EP in early 2020, which she approached a little differently than her previous work. “My process for making music this time around was just honesty,” she says. “I just really wanted to speak my mind.” In songwriting for other artists, Monét is used to mediating her own emotions and circumstances through other people. “When I write for other people, it’s my experiences transferred and filtered through their experiences, and that collaboration becomes what the world eventually hears. It’s just a matter of making sure that, when I’m writing for other people, [I’m] helping them say whatever they feel they need to express. I kind of sacrifice and hone my life view so that they can put their lens on it to make it more their own,” she says. On her forthcoming EP, the throughline of the tracks is an amalgamation of Motown-tinged R&B reminiscent of what Monét listened to growing up — with her own twist of course. “I worked with a lot of the same people throughout, so there’s a continuum of instrumentation and style,” she says. “I also wrote the whole thing myself, so I feel like there’s obviously going to be an ability to recognise a certain style in the project.” Within the EP is an “honesty and sexuality that feels a little more raw,” for the singer; “It’s almost like you get to see me through the teenage years, and then entering adulthood with this project,” she explains.
Monét’s new EP is just the start of her ambition. She wants to venture into everything in the arts including clothing and perfume, as well as her music career – she doesn’t ever want to be boxed in. But most importantly, she wants to be a source of representation. “I want to be able to share my perspective in hopes that someone who looks and feels like me has someone representing them in the music world, in the business world,” Monét says. “Really my goal is to make people feel good and make the world better because I existed, I followed my dreams and I expressed myself.”