I am not going to lie, but I did not pay much attention to Janelle Monáe until about a year ago. The only song of hers I knew was ‘Tightrope’ and even though I did really like the song, I never took the time to explore more of her music. However, when ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Hidden Figures’ came out and I saw how talented she was at acting, I was reminded of her music.
When I saw that ‘Make Me Feel,’ the lead single off her new album ‘Dirty Computer,’ came out, I immediately listened to it. Not only was the funky rhythm of the song infectious, but the music video showcased bisexuality through Monáe’s two love interests, which only made me anticipate her album even more.
This past week I have listened to ‘Dirty Computer’ in its entirety multiple times and watched the accompanying “emotion picture” of the same title. To put it simply, I was completely blown away. I do not know why it took me so long to become a fan of Monáe because she is undeniably talented.
Throughout the album, Monáe addresses the topics of being queer, black, and female with such intelligence that I felt moved knowing how influential ‘Dirty Computer’ was going to be because of the representation and social commentary it was providing.
Listening to the album without watching the film is a crime because they both work seamlessly together to tell the story of Monáe’s character, Jane 57821, navigating a dystopian world that highly resembles our own because of how she and her partners are hunted down for being different or “dirty.” They are told that the way they live is flawed because they are embracing qualities that should be eradicated: being queer, black, and female. Our current society also rejects anyone that falls under those three categories, but just like in ‘Dirty Computer,’ those who make up all three have an even larger target on their backs.
Monáe explained that prior to the creation of her new album, she was afraid to be her most authentic self. She hid behind the character of Cindi Mayweather and used her to speak about the issues that affect Monáe in a way that was easier to digest for the public. However, this persona is not present in 'Dirty Computer' because Monáe was inspired by the injustices that occur in our society to be herself and use her voice to speak out about racism, sexism, and homophobia without fear.
The songs ‘Pynk,’ ‘Django Jane,’ and ‘Make Me Feel’ are some of the most powerful on the album because of how they drive home the message that queer people, black people, and women deserve just as much love and respect as anyone else. Everything from the pants in ‘Pynk’ that resembled vaginas, to the black girl magic discussed in ‘Django Jane,’ to the sly approach used in ‘Make Me Feel’ to show that Monáe is interested in more than just men, was so well thought out that it left me at a loss for words.
‘Dirty Computer’ does a magnificent job of blending art with activism and Monáe should be applauded for both the album and the film. She was able to make several marginalized groups feel seen through her work while also representing the people that are at the intersections of those groups. I hope that this album can serve as an inspiration for other artists to use their popularity to spread a message of inclusivity and acceptance.