Artist Series | Janelle Monáe
Strong. Female. Liberation. The best three words I could find to describe Dirty Computer, the new Janelle Monáe album. After 5 silent years music-wise, Janelle, our very own Django Jane came back to spread some black girl magic and we can certainly stand it.
I don’t do album reviews and this is not one. But this album represents so much that not talking about it would possibly be a mistake. In it Janelle presents a powerful concept, opening doors for women empowering, perhaps shocking the more sensitive with her sexually liberated attitude, at the same time converting us all through beautifully put and strongly rhythmic led tracks.
Since the beginning of her career Monae’s presented us with conceptual albums, rich in metaphors and symbolic content. Resembling something like a prequel of her EP Metropolis and her full-length The ArchAndroid, Dirty Computer is no different. It follows a compelling story line that resonates with cultural paradigms, calls out society’s pre-established rules, and touches upon major points of the current political atmosphere.
They started calling us computers. People began vanishing. And the cleaning began. You were dirty if you looked different… you were dirty if you refused to live the way they dictated. You were dirty if you showed any form of opposition at all. And if you were dirty, it was only a matter of time… — Dirty Computer [Emotion Picture]
On an interview with Ebro Darden for Beats 1, the artist refers to what it means to be a dirty computer. In her words, the concept opens the discussion about how it feels to be a woman, a minority, LGBTQ, or poor in a society that continuously points out the things that make you unique as being something wrong (like a computer virus).
There’s nothing stronger than knowing your purpose and how to deliver on it.
Janelle Monáe is what you’d call a strong independent woman. Cliché phrase for sure. But it describes her well. By the time she signed to P. Diddy’s Bad Boy records, Janelle already had her music, her own distinct dance moves and artistic identity. All the label had to do was to facilitate her exposure, no further A&R involved. Monáe’s an artist that has it all figured out. Nothing is left to chance.
I’ve felt that way since I made the decision to be an artist on my own terms, and to redefine what it meant to be a young African-American artist. From the way that I dressed to the stories I wanted to tell, all of that was very purposeful — it wasn’t passive. — Janelle Monáe Talks New Album ‘Dirty Computer’ & Her Artistic Responsibilities, Billboard, 2018
In this album, songs like Django Jane act like a protest anthem for women in general and proudly celebrate Afro-American women in particular. Addressing her own feelings in regards to discrimination for being a black woman and reflecting on the oppression her own parents felt through their lives, Janelle’s words intend to stir up people’s consciences.
Black girl magic, y’all can’t stand itY’all can’t ban it, made out like a banditThey been trying hard just to make us all vanishI suggest they put a flag on a whole ‘nother planet
Dirty Computer includes innumerous references to women, women’s sexuality, women’s rights. As mentioned above, Janelle Monáe leaves nothing to chance and one of the purposes of this album was exactly to empower women. Make them feel like they can be whatever they want to be and stand up for equality. Besides Django Jane, other tracks like Pynk, Make Me Feel and I Got The Juice (feat. Pharrell Williams) share a common theme, portraying a woman that’s not afraid of her own body and sexuality.
Pynk, a collaboration with synth genius Grimes, proclaims self-love, celebrates creation, sexuality and what many would call pussy power (excuse my language!). Why pink? Because in people’s minds that’s still the colour that unites every woman.
Above all, Dirty Computer is a liberation album.
The whole story has humans living in a controlled, homogenised society where unique traits are wiped out of our brains and souls. However, song through song we experience liberation from that pressure of being like everyone else.
If you’ve been told all your life that you cannot be a certain way, dress a certain way, behave a certain way, forget about it. From my perspective, that’s what Janelle Monáe is trying to say with this album.
What You Make Me Feel, the album’s first, Prince inspired single transpires this feeling.
It’s like I’m powerful with a little bit of tender
An emotional, sexual bender
Mess me up, yeah, but no one does it better
There’s nothin’ better