In this column, I discuss Janelle Monáe's newest album:
On Friday, Janelle Monáe dropped her latest album, “Dirty Computer,” and diving into its many pleasures was a highlight of my weekend.
The first single from the album, “Make Me Feel,” was released back in February, and if it sounds like its funky synth beats were influenced by Prince, that’s because they weren’t just influenced by the late musician, but written by him. Prince collaborated with Monáe on a previous album as well, and reportedly, his involvement on “Make Me Feel” was more direct than indirect.
Having now heard all of “Dirty Computer,” I can say that “more direct than indirect” is something that applies to the album as a whole. This is the first Janelle Monáe release labeled as “explicit,” and I would say that label applies most appropriately in the way the album opts for direct frankness, where previous releases have focused on obscurity through metaphor.
“I always knew that I had to make this album,” Monáe said in an article published on Consequence of Sound earlier this year. “It scared me because a lot of the things that I knew that I needed to say were very deep, very personal, from the heart. … (Collaborators) were like, ‘OK, you said you wanted to make this album before your first album, this is the opportunity for you to just really choose honesty over mystery.’ I know that there are a lot of things that I haven’t discussed and I think this is the album that you’ll get an opportunity to get a closer glimpse into my mind and into my heart.”
Twitter blew up briefly over the weekend after Monáe came out as incorporating the term “pansexuality” into her sexual identity in an interview with Rolling Stone, but her new album is, itself, a kind of coming out as well.
I have been a fan of Monáe’s work for years, and I had no problem with the mysterious obfuscation of her ideas in her previous work, but I was excited to hear a more direct approach from her this time around.