Dirty Computer: A Queer and Brilliant Album

Remember when Janelle released Yoga in 2015? I’ve only listened to the song once in full and have tried to dodge that shit like Pat Peoples dodges Kenny G. Up until that point, Janelle Monae was flawless to my ears (and eyes). I found some beautiful logic to every song she released up until that point. Yoga, however, was and still is a goddamn mess.
Yoga was the first time I felt that Janelle was reaching for mainstream success.

Much like Yoga, Dirty Computer is accessible – it is by far Janelle’s most down-to-earth album. But unlike Yoga, Janelle gives us a glimpse into her personal life that makes this her most personal and impactful album.  It’s hard for me to say this but Dirty Computer is probably a better album than The ArchAndroid – and I consider the latter to be a stone-cold classic.

Although there are references to Jane 57821, this album feels like it is about Janelle and her life. I Like That was my least favourite single, but the more I listen to it, the more the story/ theme of the song take hold and the more I realise how deeply personal this song is. Take the bars she raps half way through the song:

I remember when you called me weird
We was in math class, third row, I was sitting by you
Right before Mr. Ammond’s class
‘Cause my mom couldn’t afford new Js
Polos, thrift store, thrift clothes that was all I knew
Do you remember?

Uh, I remember when you laughed when I cut my perm off
And you rated me a six
I was like, “Damn”
But even back then with the tears in my eyes
I always knew I was the shit

I felt those bars from the depths of my soul. You can tell this memory has been needling at her for a while. And that is the thing about this album, there are moments like that littered throughout the 14 tracks.

I posit that if you are a Janelle Monae fan, you knew she was gay – so her coming out really wasn’t that much of a surprise. However, her gayness shines through on this album like a force that had been repressed for millions of years.  The queerness in this album feels cathartic – there is a joy to songs like Pynk, Screwed and Make Me Feel that are infectious.

Although we had songs like Say You’ll Go and Can’t Live Without Your Love – there is something different about Don’t Judge Me. This song feels like it was written and sung specifically for someone out there. I felt like a voyeur listening to a six-minute conversation between two lovers. This song is just different to anything I have heard Janelle produce.

I love this album. I love everything about it. And, most of all, I am delighted that Janelle is now in a place where she can make an album that feels and sounds like this. In a world of Trump, Dirty Computer gives me hope.

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