Janelle Monáe is a continuously surprising firecracker as a performer; a graceful, unfussy actress; and now, after years of speculation, an out and proud member of the LGBTQ community. We should be throwing her a party, but instead she’s throwing one for us with the new Janelle Monáe album Dirty Computer.
“I want young girls, young boys, nonbinary, gay, straight, queer people who are having a hard time dealing with their sexuality, dealing with feeling ostracized or bullied for just being their unique selves, to know that I see you,” she said in her new interview with Rolling Stone. “This album is for you. Be proud.”
We are. And she should be as well, because Dirty Computer is the record she has been working towards since her 2007 debut EP Metropolis: Suite 1 (The Chase). It’s an amalgamation of sci-fi nerdiness and lean Prince-inspired funk sprinkled with the best that hip-hop has to offer. And while she has always been drawn to “concept” — and no doubt there’s one here as well — more often than not she’s here to make you dance or challenge a tightly held assumption or two.
Monáe must have been contemplating her announcement for some time, because Dirty Computer sounds liberating (for us, of course, but for her as well). It’s certainly the most carnal record of her short career — highlighted by her duet with Grimes on “Pynk” and the empowered “I Like That” — and it’s also, a related fact, her most political (“Screwed” (featuring Zoë Kravitz) combines them both, while “I Got the Juice” (with Pharrell Williams) has a message for our Commander-in-Chief: “If you try to grab my pussycat, this pussy grab you back”).
She’s also never been funkier, more soulful, more uninhibited. I doubt this was her intention, but somewhere His Purple Majesty is looking down from the skies while he shimmies to “Make Me Feel,” the true heir to his classic song “Kiss” and yet one more reason, today, for Monáe to be proud.