Singer reboots and takes aim at the world on fantastic third LP.
The erstwhile android returns in human form with a stunningly kaleidoscopic state-of-the-world address.
JANELLE MONÁE DIRTY COMPUTER WONDALAND ARTS SOCIETY/BAD BOY/ ATLANTIC, OUT NOW
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 Take A Byte’s purple strut and Make Me Feel’s Kiss-like flicker. Screwed, meanwhile, is a gleefully filthy play on the title’s different meanings: “you fucked the world up/We’ll fuck 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. ★★★★★ Listen To: Pynk | Make Me Feel | Americans
Janelle Monáe: the new album is “a kaleidoscopic merging of the personal and the political.”