Album Reviews

Janelle Monáe - Dirty Computer (Bad Boy Records)

Album out on 27 April 2018

Reuben Raj

Janelle Monáe’s new album Dirty Computer is firmly rooted in Sex and Politics and I love it.

For months, I have been wondering how and what would it take to outdo and outperform Monáe’s Electric Lady in 2013. As I watched and listened to each new single, my apprehension grew until I finally heard Dirty Computer in its entirety, from start to finish. That’s when it finally clicked. 

Dirty Computer is a well-crafted and polished musical extravaganza. Dedicated to anyone struggling with their identity and I assume also willing to embrace bugs and viruses in their programming. Monáe describes how the album is divided into 3 parts; the Reckoning, Celebration and Reclamation. I get a sense that each track was strategically placed to lead a listener down a path of self-discovery, empowerment and ultimately, affirmation that everyone has a part to protect and preserve this Crazy, Classic, Life.

It is inspiring to see Monáe evolve her music over time with careful deliberation, planning and execution. Listening back to the adventures of Cindi Mayweather in The ArchAndroid and jazzy funky Electric Lady, Dirty Computer does not detach itself from Monáe’s core hip hop, R&B and gospel roots. As in all her other studio albums, Monáe’s belief in the strength of diversity is reflected in her choice of collaborators on Dirty Computer which features the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, Grimes, Pharrell Williams, Zoë Kravitz, and Stevie Wonder.

But it’s not all candy. Dirty Computer is also a direct response to the prevailing injustice and discrimination against race, gender and creed in America. “Mothers going to work and they shake the hands of a corporate tycoon’s ghost” sings Monáe in So Afraid. But, with a united front, perhaps we stand a chance to express and celebrate our authenticity.

Aside from sonic delights, the visual concepts and art forms that surround Dirty Computer are stunning and provocative, sensually moving from ethereal beauty to tuxedo chic. Dare I say that Helmut Newton and David LaChapelle lent some inspirations in this domain?

So, go on and Take a Byte! All of us Dirty Computers have to stick together for a better tomorrow.

Written By: Reuben Raj Reuben is a film and digital photographer who is driven by music in his head. Often seen lurking behind a camera inside the pit of a concert or wandering the streets of China with a blond, Reuben harbours intimate feelings for vinyl records and his Hasselblad SW/C from 1965. He is also the founder of Radio 13.