Album Review: Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer

Janelle Monáe outspoken and unapologetic on new album
A lot has changed since Janelle Monáe last released an album. After she dropped The Electric Lady back in 2013, the artist disappeared from our radar for a while, only to return as a celebrated actress in Oscar nominated movies Moonlight and Hidden Figures. With her long awaited return to music, Monáe mastered the art of making headlines. She created a whole new interest in the meaning of being pansexual when discussing her sexual orientation in an interview with Rolling Stone, her alleged relationship with actress Tessa Thompson was teased in her music video and the highly giffable ‘pussy power’ video for ‘Pynk’ went viral. Now Monáe finally dropped her already highly praised new album Dirty Computer.

Monáe kicked off the campaign with lead single ‘Make Me Feel’, a Prince inspired funky tune with an incredibly catchy hook. At the same time she launched the hiphop tune ‘Django Jane’ on which she explicitly talks about being a black woman in today’s society, a theme that does come back on the rest of the record. Janelle Monáe is more outspoken and unapologetic than ever before. On her first two record she did ‘hide’ behind her android alter ego Cindi Mayweather, but this time it is Janelle herself, not holding back or shying away from any topic.

Dirty Computer is a celebration of womanhood, of blackness and embracing your sexuality. Most recent single ‘PYNK’ is an ode to female sexuality, through metaphors about the female sexual organ. Who knew ‘pussy power’ would be so catchy!? On the on first listen seemingly carefree ‘Crazy, Classic, Life’, Janelle describes the kind of life she craves for, without judgement, breaking the rules (and having sex in a swimming pool). The outro actually changes everything and awakes the listeners from the dream she just created. “Me and you was friends, but to them, we the opposite, the same mistake, I’m in jail, you on top of shit”, she raps, stating how her white friend got treated differently for doing the same things as her. The build up in this track makes the message come across even stronger.

On ‘I Got The Juice’, a swinging, chanty collaboration with Pharrell Williams, Janelle confidently talks about her female sexuality, while referring to president Trump’s infamous tape recording in the outro stating: “If you try to grab my pussy cat, this pussy grab you back!” Over the deliciously laidback beats of ‘I Like That’, Janelle finds peace with her uniqueness, thinking back on the times she was not accepted for who she was: “I remember when you laughed when I cut my perm off and you rated me a six. I was like, “Damn”, but even back then with the tears in my eyes I always knew I was the shit.” ‘So Afraid’ is a stripped back, guitar driven track with prominent backing vocals, on which Janelle describes her anxieties in a straightforward and personal manner. We haven’t heard her like that before!

The serious subject matter did not stop Janelle from writing some proper bops though. Feminist anthem ‘Take A Byte’ sounds like a true Monáe tune with a radiofriendly chorus and ‘Screwed’ which features Zoë Kravitz criticizes the state of war the world is in, but not without a funky guitar riff and one of the most instant hooks she has ever written and recorded. All the above mentioned topics come back in album closer ‘Americans’, on which describes what it is like to be an American, not shying away from calling out racism, homophobia and the lack of sexual freedom for women. Janelle Monáe should be applauded for having the courage to bring up these issues, while telling her personal stories and doing so in her most instant and catchy album to date. Are the Grammy’s ready for Janelle in 2019!?

 

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