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Music Janelle Monae

Published on May 10th, 2018 | by voxx

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Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer

The singer reboots and takes aim at the world on her fantastic third LP…

There is a moment on ‘Americans’, Dirty Computer’s closing track, that is the sound of a red baseball hat being ground under the dancing heel of a white-patent boot. “Don’t try to take my country,” sings Janelle Monáe, bouncing the rhetoric of the Right back in their faces over a ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ gallop, “I will defend my land.” Anyone in the market for a rallying cry – and in 2018, who isn’t? – should step this way. Monáe has been making her country great since 2010’s The ArchAndroid, but with her third album, she turbocharges her long-standing mission to stand up for blackness, for queerness, for femaleness.

It’s a kaleidoscopic merging of the personal and the political, from the feminist subversions of ‘Pynk’ to the testifying of ‘Django Jane’ (“let the vagina have a monologue”). She may have once identified as a hi-concept android, but Dirty Computer shows her in a fully human incarnation: complicated, convoluted and very much of the flesh. The fact Prince was involved in the album’s genesis, working with Monáe on sound ideas and instrumental parts, is hardly camouflaged. Not least because Monáe shares his sexual mind and energy on the purple strut of ‘Take A Byte’ and the Kiss-like flicker of ‘Make Me Feel’. ‘Screwed’, meanwhile, is a gleefully filthy play on the title’s different meanings: “you f**ked the world up/We’ll f**k it all back down.”

Yet it speaks volumes that Prince’s presence – not to mention that of Brian Wilson on the title track – is not even the third most interesting thing here. Fierce, honest and a challenge to the forces of obsolescence, Dirty Computer feels like a vital upgrade from a true renegade.

- By Jake White


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