Having frantically listened to ‘Make Me Feel’ on repeat from the moment it was released, I was ecstatic when Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer came out. The album combines pop, rap, soul and funk in a stylish, fearless exploration of who she is, and what it is to be a black queer woman in America. In a short “Emotion Picture”, released the night before the album, Monáe remains true to her sci-fi aesthetic by setting the songs in a dystopian future where “dirty computers”, the non-conformists and marginalised, are taken to be “cleaned” and brainwashed. Nevertheless, from the very first notes of ‘Dirty Computer’ to the last beats of ‘Americans’, Monáe leads a glorious rebellion against the establishment and a celebration of sex and individuality. Dirty Computer moves seamlessly from her daring anthem to sex in a messed-up world like ‘Screwed’, to a more tender hymn, to intimacy between women in ‘Pynk’, where Tessa Thompson in her vagina trousers is beyond amazing.
Ultimately, Janelle Monáe embraces not giving a damn about what people think in ‘I Like That’, while also accepting vulnerability in ‘Don’t Judge Me’ and ‘So Afraid’. She told Rolling Stone, “I want young girls, young boys, nonbinary, gay, straight, queer people who are having a hard time dealing with their sexuality, dealing with feeling ostracised or bullied for just being their unique selves, to know that I see you. This album is for you. Be proud”, and I think the world desperately needs more musicians like her.
[Isabelle Ribe – @izzieribe]