AL­BUM OF THE WEEK

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE -

Over the past 12 months or so, a slew of big-name artists have strived to show the world just how ‘woke’ they are to press­ing con­tem­po­rary is­sues. Ev­ery­one from Katy Perry to Justin Tim­ber­lake have re­leased mu­sic that’s touched on zeit­geist sub­jects like #MeToo, but sev­eral — in­clud­ing poor Katy and Justin — have been pil­lo­ried for sim­ply jump­ing on the band­wagon in the record­ing stu­dio. In the age of ‘woke’ al­bums, some are per­ceived as be­ing more equal than oth­ers and there’s lit­tle doubt that this lat­est from the funked-up, hip-hop ori­ented pop star car­ries a ring of au­then­tic­ity. Monáe has spo­ken up about in­jus­tice ever since she burst on to the scene ear­lier this decade and this po­tent al­bum tack­les op­pres­sion of women by preda­tory men and the very spe­cific chal­lenges of be­ing born black and poor in con­tem­po­rary Amer­ica. Even those pas­sion­ate about so­cial jus­tice might baulk at the idea of another al­bum go­ing in heavy on such top­ics, but it’s to Monáe’s credit that she man­ages to fash­ion a slew of be­witch­ingly skewed pop songs, in­clud­ing closer ‘Amer­i­cans’ which may, in time, come to be seen as a protest song for the ages. She speak-sings the lyrics and cov­ers a mul­ti­tude of bases. “Un­til women can get equal pay for equal work… un­til same-gen­der lov­ing peo­ple can be who they are... un­til black peo­ple can come home from a po­lice stop with­out be­ing shot in the head... un­til poor whites can get a shot at be­ing suc­cess­ful... un­til Lati­nos and Lati­nas don’t have to run from walls... this is not my Amer­ica.” Pow­er­ful stuff.

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