Janelle Monáe has been quite outspoken in recent months about a variety of topics, from sexuality to politics. You'd expect her new album to sound just as urgent as her statement, but the opposite is true; while the narrative of the album is definitely there, the sound may come as a surprise. Janelle Monáe lets loose in Dirty Computer, her new album that takes a departure from her previous work to tackle some hefty issues.
On the surface, Dirty Computer is a genuinely fun pop album. Monáe opens the record with the sweet harmonies of the title track 'Dirty Computer,' with Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys adding to them. The soulful 'Crazy, Classic, Life' follows through with bright synths, nice dynamic, and an overall wholesome feel. It's very 80s, from the synths to the occasional guitar stings interspersed into the song. The lyrics are pretty interesting, as well, Monáe chanting into the pre-choruses: "We don't need another ruler / We don't need another fool / I'm not American's nightmare... Just let me live my life." Beyond the poppy vibes, Monáe brings in a lot of other influences into the mix throughout the album. 'Take A Byte' and 'Jane's Dream' are very funky, while songs like 'Don't Judge Me' or more soulful and R&B inspired with a chill atmosphere.
Monáe's idea of what a "dirty computer" gives the album its real depth: in her words, "We come from dirt and when we transition out we go back to dirt... We’re CPUs, our brains are uploading, downloading, transmitting, passing back and forth information. And with all computers you got your bugs, you got your viruses... it’s about embracing those things even if it makes others uncomfortable." Dirty Computer is an album about embracing our differences, whether they be in regards to politics or sexuality or whatever else it may be. One motif Monáe really sets her sights on is embracing women and being empowered by that, especially in the charged, dark 'Django Jane' where she goes off. Monáe also explores sexuality, clever songs like 'PYNK' featuring Grimes with its charming weirdness and the more sexually tense 'I Like That.' She even goes as far as to satirize sex and society in 'Screwed' with Zoë Kravitz. Monáe leaves no stones unturned, and though the music may sound poppy and upbeat, the messages she's been speaking about are all very present.
Janelle Monáe lets loose in Dirty Computer, delivering some fun pop all the while advancing important messages that she's been advocating as of late. It's cleverly disguised, but perhaps every worthwhile message is. Dirty Computer is a celebration of our differences, and maybe in the funky rhythms of the album we can really learn to accept them.
Favorite Tracks: Django Jane, I Like That
Least Favorite Track: I Got The Juice
Rating: 77 / 100
Stream or buy Dirty Computer on Apple Music, and follow our 2018 Playlist on Spotify: