On Friday, April 27, 2018, we were blessed with brand new Janelle Monáe content. Consider this a PSA that you have to experience it.
Friday’s release, titled Dirty Computer, includes both an album and a 48-minute “emotion picture,” which is a narrative film and accompanying musical album (according to the description of the official trailer). The first two music videos, which are included in the full emotion picture, were “Django Jane” and “Make Me Feel,” both of which dropped on Feb. 22. Next came “PYNK” on April 10 and “I Like That” on April 23. All of these videos are woven together as memories of Jane 57821 (played by Janelle Monáe herself) in Dirty Computer.
Dirty Computer follows Jane through the halls of the House of the New Dawn. Viewers see Jane’s memories in the form of music videos as they are deleted by two workers, experiencing Jane’s social revolt and glorious love affair with Zen (Tessa Thompson) and Ché (Jayson Aaron).
Janelle Monáe has never been shy about her blackness, with her previous musical persona Cindi Mayweather center to a metaphor of black people as androids. However, until this awesome interview with Rolling Stone, she hadn’t directly addressed her sexuality. She is now officially out as pansexual and makes explicit reference to her sexuality in Dirty Computer.
The Rolling Stone interview also confirmed a queer reference in the song “Q.U.E.E.N.” (2013) which has me seeing rainbows. When I first heard the song as a baby gay, the lines “say is it weird to like the way she wear her tights” and “am I a freak because I like watching Mary” made me suspicious. Then I listened to the song about a hundred more times and thought the background vocals really sounded like “queer” not “queen.” In the Rolling Stone interview, Monáe confirmed that “Q.U.E.E.N.” was originally titled “Q.U.E.E.R,” telling them “you can still hear the word on the track’s background harmonies.”
Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer is a testament to her identity to a black queer woman. Larger social issues are mentioned in the work, but it is really about Janelle Monáe coming out as a person. No longer is she Cindi Mayweather, the idealized leader and mechanically perfect persona she wore for her previous albums. She is now Jane, whose humanity is undeniable even as she is called a “dirty computer.” The songs are not only beautifully written, they are remarkably real and human.
Please do yourself a favor: take a break from finals to watch and listen to Dirty Computer! While you’re at it, just watch all of her videos, and listen to all of her albums. The evolution of her music and the person she presents to the world is exciting and moving, and Dirty Computer is one of many amazing albums.