- 16 May 18
Pop eccentric delivers knockout third LP.
With her first two albums flopping quite spectacularly, there seemed a plausible danger Janelle Monáe was the boundary-smashing pop star we needed but didn’t deserve. The fear she had better things to do with her time than be ignored by the music-streaming masses intensified as she embarked on a successful acting career (Moonlight, Hidden Figures). Had we spurned our opportunity to crown the great pop innovator of her generation?
She’s finally giving us another chance, with a record that is her most chart-friendly to date. It’s also her most interesting, innovative and historically significant – Prince served as midwife and unofficial producer to Dirty Computer before his sudden death two years ago. His influence explains the potent funkiness – a fact co-producer Chuck Lightning has acknowledged (“The most powerful thing he could do was give us the brushes to paint with”). But the mind-bending phantasmagorical elements are entirely down to Monáe, bounding between genres with abandon even as she maintains a consistent level of perv-pop transcendence. One reading of the project is that it marks Monáe’s coming out as a “queer black woman in America” – something she signalled in the video to ‘Make Me Feel’, in which she cavorts with (rumoured real life partner) Tessa Thompson, and later confirmed to Rolling Stone.
Yet Dirty Computer is a celebration of sexuality in every form. “And we gon’ start a motherfuckin’ pussy riot/Or we gon’ have to put ’em on a pussy diet,” she rhymes on ‘Django Jane’, a rare foray into old-school hip hop by the Kansas city artist, and one of the most gleefully lascivious tunes you’ll hear this side of… well, Prince in his steamy prime.