Singer re­boots and takes aim at the world on fan­tas­tic third LP.

Q (UK) - - Contents - VIC­TO­RIA SEGAL

The erst­while an­droid re­turns in hu­man form with a stun­ningly kalei­do­scopic state-of-the-world ad­dress.


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.”

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