Janelle Monáe, you glorious pansexual goddess, I don’t know what to do with you. For two albums, I’ve been following Cindi Mayweather’s funky journey of black queerness and now, you’ve dropped all pretense and revealed your true self. I won’t lie, the change threw me off completely. I was listening to the promotional singles wondering “What the hell’s going on?” I was getting really worried because nothing really sticked. All of the songs sounded a little too beyond my tastes, mixing hip hop, rap, and R&B in a style unfamiliar to the classy stylings of Monáe’s previous albums. Also, I hated “Pynk,” a song featuring the lovely Grimes, who seemed to not use her best capabilities, and I was positive nothing would change my mind on that. It wasn’t until I listened to the album that I realized that all these songs were part of one giant message of loving yourself and fighting the powers that be. This album kept me smiling from beginning to end and even though I was listening to this at work, I couldn’t pay attention to anything else until the dramatic finale. In short, Janelle Monáe’s latest album Dirty Computer is nothing short of amazing, giving the most complete package of her artistry yet. Also, yes, my mind has changed completely on “Pynk” and it is one of the highlights of the album.
In terms of a specific song, listening to the album also gave me newfound appreciation for “Make Me Feel,” the first single. It is an absolutely slick song that makes strong and swift punches to jolt you into dancing. Prince has been a strong inspiration for Monáe and it is clear as day in this song. It’s a bit difficult to talk about, now that I think about it, because I think its direction and execution is flawless in a very boring way. She wanted to make a song about having a strong energy with another person, and you can feel the sparks flowing in the song.
It Doesn’t Make You Feel?
I have a bunch of choices for a second recommendation, but I want to focus on the positive message being delivered in the album. “I Like That” does exactly that by defining Monáe’s struggles to be and love herself even if no one else believes in the way she is (“And I like that, I don’t really give a fuck if I was just the only one who likes that.”)
There is one great spoken word section that I can’t help smiling from every time I hear it because it just defines how I feel about Monáe in one stanza:
“Uh, 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”
And now, let’s end this flood of love and admiration of Janelle Monáe with a quote from her, speaking with Brittany Spanos at Rolling Stones, of love and admiration:
“I want young girls, young boys, nonbinary, gay, straight, queer people who are having a hard time dealing with their sexuality, dealing with feeling ostracized or bullied for just being their unique selves, to know that I see you. This album is for you. Be proud.”