ALBUM OF THE WEEK
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.