• Erin Bashford

Janelle Monáe - 'Dirty Computer' Review

Retrospect, they say, is, more often than not, rose-tinted. Yet the future is seldom viewed with the same sunset glow of the past--it’s difficult to observe current society with optimism for the years that follow. Perhaps, if it’s not too wild to suggest, it’s easier to raise issues faced today with an augmented refraction, and that is what Janelle Monáe is best at.

In Janelle Monáe’s futuristic alternative reality, tales of sexuality and self-identity run alongside theories on minority repression. It’s difficult to wholeheartedly comprehend the broadness of Monáe’s sci-fi concepts without extensive listening to her previous releases. Luckily, Dirty Computer is the first LP free from Cyndi Mayweather’s Metropolis storyline. Whilst still toying with industrial pop, Dirty Computer is the first instance we see Monáe’s personality, contrasted against the metallic walls of her first two studio albums.

Monáe has never been one to shy away from contentious topics, often mirrored in the warped concepts offered on The ArchAndroid and The Electric Lady. Building on the struggles faced by people of colour, women, and members of the LGBT+ community presented in her debut and sophomore albums, Dirty Computer informs us of these topics, whilst retaining a previously missing sense of personal closeness.

Here we are introduced to the real Janelle Monáe, an artist finally allowing her core to be seen. To some, she is messianic, homogeneous with her time-travelling saviour character Cyndi Mayweather, opening up a school of thought often ignored by popular musicians today. To others, she is an integral cog in the alt-pop machine, ingenuity colouring the neo-soul and funk of her work. Lead single ‘Make Me Feel’ is a kaleidoscopic, modulated tale of sexual denial, our persona facing their fluidity head-on. We interact with femininity on tracks ‘Pynk (feat. Grimes)’, and ‘Django Jane’, the latter an in-your-face anthem for female empowerment and individuality.

Whilst dropping the storyline of Metropolis, Janelle Monáe has constructed an unapologetic, unafraid, and unstoppable collection of personalised emotional tales on Dirty Computer. Alongside deftly-written pop songs and famous faces, the sheerly conceptual lament of the record shines through. Although the future is dark, it’s one wherein Janelle Monáe’s thematic creativity has a place. 8.5/10

Listen to the album here.

#janellemonae #funk #rb #soul

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