The title of Victoria Monét’s latest single might strike fear into the hearts of thin-skinned radio producers and TV censors, but ‘Ass Like That’ is actually something of a red herring.
The smooth and infectiously catchy single seeks to promote the kind of goal-minded body positivity that can be achieved through regular exercise. “Met him about two months ago, said his name was Gym,” Monét wryly coos over the kind of rolling, groove-laden beat SZA would snap up in an instant. She later declares a preference to “treat my calories like weed, yeah, I burn that shit” in a quote that could definitely be printed on a range of Monét-approved gymwear. “It seems like people are starting to consider it as a work-out anthem,” she adds. “But this is like a chilled version, and it reflects upon my personality because I’m really chill and, in my head, some sort of hippie, just going with the wind.”
It could, as Monét herself puts it, have been an “up-tempo, 808s-heavy song that you can dance to”, instead it’s a slow and steady slice of R&B. “When I was writing the song, I was really documenting my own experiences and my life,” Monét explains to NME. “And now looking back and listening to ‘Ass Like That’, I realise that there’s a bigger purpose: subconsciously taking power into my own hands and talking about my body in the way I’d like to.”
This free-spirited outlook has evidently filtered through to Monét’s songwriting, and her craft has already prompted a whole host of big names — including Nas, Kanye West’s GOOD Music and Machine Gun Kelly — to call upon the 26-year-old’s ear for a good hook in recent years.
But it’s her creative partnership with actual BFF Ariana Grande that has created the most buzz so far. As well as touring together and co-writing the knock-out pop likes of ‘Thank U, Next’ and ‘7 Rings’, the two artists paired up earlier this year to share the bouncy ‘MONOPOLY’ — the first song in which Grande and Monét have shared top billing.
The duo’s next collaboration is out today (November 1) as part of the Charlie’s Angels soundtrack. These are exciting times for the Sacramento singer/songwriter — so what better time could there be to catch up with Monét to find out her plans for new music, her list of dream collaborators and her take on Kanye going gospel?
You wrote ‘Ass Like That’ while at a songwriting camp. What was that experience like?
“I loved it. This particular writing camp was run by Keep Cool, a label that’s partnered with RCA. There were a lot of creatives there, particularly musicians. I don’t know if [the camp] was haunted or not, but it had this kind of energy: there was all this taxidermy, which I did not like! [laughs] But overall it was a very creative space: there was lots of greenery outside, beautiful sunsets and lots of creative energy in the room. A lot of the songs that were written in that camp are now being released.”
Will any of those songs be released by you?
One of my friends recorded me while I was listening back to one of the songs from the camp and put it on my Instagram Stories. My fans found it, and they literally tweet me every day to put this particular song out: it samples the melodies from ‘Mad World’ and my fans have been like, “Put this out or I’ll kill you.” [laughs] They’re sweet really, but they love that song so much. I do plan on putting it out, but the rest of my music isn’t coming ’til 2020: it’s gonna be pretty cool.
‘Ass Like That’ follows on from the great reception which greeted ‘Monopoly’ back in April. How has your creative relationship with Ariana Grande developed over the years?
“We’ve just been friends for so long. It’s so easy and it just feels really fun, but also therapeutic. It’s not like when you go to a writing session and you have to ask the writer or the artist: “What’s going on with your life?” We talk all the time, and we both already know what’s going on in each other’s lives. So whenever we’re in the studio, we get straight to the music part.
I imagine us [in the future] being really old ladies talking about how he used to do it. ‘Remember when we did ‘Thank U, Next’? Remember when we toured here?’ You know, just having discussions over tea. This’ll be a forever thing.”
And you’ve teamed up again to record ‘Got Her Own’ for the new Charlie’s Angels film…
“I’m so excited to hear one of my songs in a Hollywood movie! I’ve never heard my voice in the theatre: I think [‘Got Her Own’] is towards the end of the movie, possibly the end credits. I’ve always wanted to [have a song in a movie], especially after hearing Adele‘s ‘Skyfall’ and being like, “Wow, that must be a huge feeling.” The Charlie’s Angels soundtrack has so many artists, and I’m just lucky to be on that list among Chaka Khan, Donna Summer and other icons. It’s really dope.”
You’ve already worked with an array of big artists. Who would you like to collaborate with next?
“I would love to work with Drake, he’s one of my favourite-ever artists. I would like to work with Burna Boy. And this is a bit of a long, long reach, but I’d love to work with Sade. She’s amazing. Those are some of the first people that come to mind, but I’m really pretty open to collaborating with a lot of people. I just think it’s a timing thing: I don’t want to over-saturate with too many features or be a part of too many things because I want everything I release to feel special. But, eventually, I want a long list of collaborations for sure.”
Going forward, would you like to become more well-known for your solo work rather than your collaborations?
I think a balance is very good. People like Pharrell have amazing balance: I know he’s on the producer side, but he’s able to be respected in both fields. He works with other people but when his solo music comes out, it’s still going to be a big thing. Or someone like The-Dream or Keri Hilson. I just wanna level the playing field and be a well-rounded creative, really. I don’t necessarily want to overshadow either my solo work or my collaborations, I just think that by putting out my own music as an artist it seems to be a little bit more freeform because I’m just listening to my own instinct. So I think maybe it gives people more insight into the diaspora of what I do, and gives a little more of the spectrum when they hear my music.”
One of your past collaborations was with Kanye West’s GOOD Music on ‘Sin City’. What did you make of ‘Jesus Is King’?
“I actually haven’t listened to it yet. But I know Kanye is this really amazing creative and I think that if there’s something that he feels really passionate about, I don’t know if he should listen to anybody who’s in disagreement with him. Obviously he feels a certain way, and a big part of being a creative is making big artistic choices that maybe not everyone would agree with or believe in, but sometimes it’s for you. I trust that ‘Jesus Is King’ is going to be good.
I’m a really big Kanye fan. You know, I don’t agree with everything that he does but, again, that’s a part of life. Even people I love in my family, I don’t agree with everything that they do. So I’m fine with that. He’s just a creative.”
2020 is fast approaching. What does the new year have in store for you?
“I really want to go on tour. I have so much fun performing, and I haven’t done it in a while. I’m also interested in film and doing more acting, whether it’s big screen or even something smaller, outside of music: as long as it doesn’t take my focus away. Acting has always been an ambition for me. I used to tell my grandma that I wanted to be a Triple Threat [an actor, singer and dancer]. Songwriting wasn’t on my mind [at the time], but that’s what I wanted when I was really young.
I think I kind of compartmentalise my strategies and I’m like: “OK I just need to focus on this one thing, get that accomplished and then do the rest.” But I guess I need to learn that I can do things simultaneously because life is too short to just reach one goal at a time, you know? Try it all. I think in 2020 that’ll be a change I’ll try to make.”