Janelle Monáe has had a big week--dropping a stunning new visual album and boldly coming out as pansexual in an utterly joyful disregard of tired binaries!
The album itself, DIRTY COMPUTER, is a queer sci-fi masterpiece that Monáe is referring to as an "emotion picture” which seems an accurate description considering the emotional punch the piece packs. FYI -- I’ll be sourcing videos to share with you today from Youtube.com.
In Dirty Computer Monáe has created a futuristic world in which defunct androids are “cleaned” when they are found to have system viruses or bugs in their programming.
Like Jordan Peele (director of Get Out), Monáe is playing with futurism as a way of commenting on societal issues existing within our society. While it is easy to get lost in the stunning visuals and smooth vocals, don’t forget that every choice Monáe is making intentionally shines a light on narratives that are too often silenced in our country. When she closes the album with Americans she leaves no room for doubt about her message:
“Until women can get equal pay for equal work, this is not my America / Until same gender loving people can be who they are, this is not my America / Until black people can come home from a police stop without being shot in the head, this is not my America”
This isn’t the first time that Monáe has adopted a futuristic aesthetic.
In 2010 in an interview with the Chicago Tribune she said of her work on The Electric Lady and The ArchAndroids:
I chose an android because the android to me represents 'the other' in our society. I can connect to the other, because it has so many parallels to my own life – just by being a female, African-American artist in today's music industry. … Whether you're called weird or different, all those things we do to make people uncomfortable with themselves, I've always tried to break out of those boundaries."
Watch the full DIRTY COMPUTER “emotion picture” below!
On top of dropping this amazing album, Monáe also publicly came out as pansexual.
What does that mean exactly? I think of being pansexual as being a more expansive, inclusive definition of bisexuality. My issue with bisexuality is that it still assumes a gender binary (i.e. being attracted to “men” and “women”). Pansexuality allows a person to be attracted to any human, regardless of their particular gender expression or identity on a spectrum. While Monáe hasn’t limited herself by specifically defining what “pansexuality means to her" in any interviews, she does make it clear in a recent Chicago Tribune article that she aims to make an impact in her community:
I want young girls, young boys, nonbinary, gay, straight, queer people who are having a hard time dealing with their sexuality, dealing with feeling ostracized or bullied for just being their unique selves, to know that I see you. This album is for you. Be proud.
It’s no secret that Monáe has been influenced by other queer idols and master musicians, including Prince (and that influence can be felt, and seen, in Dirty Computer).
Here is what Monáe told NME about Prince's influence in a recent interview:
It was something about watching this black man, I’d never seen a black man express himself like that, and it scared me. You know I don’t know if it was because maybe I hadn’t been comfortable with tapping into my fearlessness…it’s just like you got the sense that he was a free ass motherf*****, right? And I don’t know if I was ready to tap into my free as motherf***** nature, but I think what I love most is that I got the opportunity to get to know the man who everybody looked at as this mysterious, other-worldly being. You know I did get the opportunity to perform onstage with him.
And now, a few recently released singles from DIRTY COMPUTER
A few standout lyrics:
'Cause I'm crazy and I'm sexy then I'm cool
Little rough around the edges, but I keep it smooth
I'm always left of center and that's right where I belong
I'm the random minor note you hear in major songs
A few standout lyrics:
It's like I'm powerful with a little bit of tender
An emotional, sexual bender
Let the vagina have a monologue
Mansplaining, I fold em like origami
What's a wave, baby? This a tsunami
For the culture, I kamikaze
I have been a fan of Janelle Monáe since she first started making music in 2010, then really fell in love with the release of The Electric Lady album in 2013.
No matter what, I can count on Monáe to stick to her core values, write highly intelligent lyrics, and to play with groundbreaking visual aesthetics. I have thought for awhile that she is one of the more interesting and important modern artists--and that opinion is sealed after watching DIRTY COMPUTER.
Janells somehow manages to create a sci-fi universe, empower people of all genders, and deliver a brilliant commentary on the world that we live in all in one piece. It’s imaginative, it’s empowering, and it’s critical. It’s hard to do all three of these things at the same time, but Monáe does. If I could give this piece of art a standing ovation I would.
Are you a Monáe fan? What’s your favorite song?!
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