I Am A Dirty Computer: Janelle Monáe's Latest Work is a Celebration of Blackhood, Queerhood, and Womanhood
STORY BY: JODY JOHNSON
It’s been five years since Janelle Monáe has released an album and a decade since she first introduced us to her android alter-ego, Cindi Mayweather. However, Monáe’s Dirty Computer is all her, stripped of her alter-ego, declaring that she doesn’t want to hide behind a façade anymore. Dirty Computer takes the listener on a journey that reflects societal views as Monáe recognizes how society views her as a queer black female in America.
Monáe previously mentioned her queerness in the lead single from 2013’s The Electric Lady, with "Q.U.E.E.N." In the song, Monáe introduced her attraction to women within the song stating, “Am I a freak because I love watching Mary,” and the background vocals can be heard saying “queer” in the chorus. After having discussed that she prefers to date “androids” (in reference to her alter-ego), and identifying as bisexual, she officially came out as pansexual in a Rolling Stone interview last month.
Monáe is free to express her queer sexuality like never before and listeners will notice that. On "Pynk," Monáe wrote an ode to the female genitalia, expressing an admiration for female sexuality. The video resembles the “Rub” music video from the fellow queer artist, Peaches, with Monáe and her dancers wearing pink chaps resembling the vagina while dancing in the desert.
Before her Rolling Stone interview, she released the music video for her Prince-inspired song, “Make Me Feel.” In the music video, she is seen flirting and dancing with both men and women, her rumored girlfriend, actress Tessa Thompson also makes an appearance..Thompson also appears in the "Pynk" music video mentioned above and throughout Monáe’s ‘emotion picture’ for Dirty Computer.
Monáe has mentioned that one reason she didn’t feel comfortable coming out as queer was due to her strong religious background. Close family and friends knew, however, she notes that she hasn’t told all her family and if they have questions they’ll discuss it with her. As a proud black female, she states how her androgynous style has caused controversy within the black community. On “Django Jane,” she raps “Remember when they said I look too mannish, black girl magic, y’all can’t stand it.” The song is a great spoken word rap where Monáe paints a social commentary on what’s happening in the world, asking for a better-united world.
A sense of female empowerment is scattered throughout the whole album. From songs like "Pynk" that embrace female sexuality to songs like “I Got the Juice” where she tells a man to keep his hands to himself. “If you try to grab my pussycat, this pussy grab you back…give you pussy cataracts,” reflects what our current president has stated, and Monáe fires back giving females a voice to stand up for their rights and sexuality. Monáe has always stood up for women’s right through her music and in interviews even mirroring her acting roles. She acted in two Oscar-nominated movies about the achievements of black women (Hidden Figures) and the struggles for queer sexuality in the African American community (Moonlight).
The album closes with the song, “Americans” and brings all the ideas from the album into this appropriately titled song. America has always been a land that’s often considered “free,” but Monáe states that this America is not her America. Monáe mentions racism, ideas and traditions, sexism, homophobia, sexual liberation, immigration policies, and police brutality; which have all been present in history when creating this America. What Monáe wants is an America where people are free to be who they are and where everyone is treated equally, where the world is a more unifying place.
Dirty Computer is a journey of a woman beginning to find her real self and how she fits into society. A Covergirl model, Monáe is raw and stripped of her android self; allowing listeners to get reacquainted with her. Monáe is a voice for her community, she’s creating a conversation with her album by addressing important issues within society. While Kendrick Lamar discussed the black community with DAMN and Beyoncé empowered black women with Lemonade, Monáe took those issues and reiterated them from her perspective. Monáe accomplished what she wants people to know: she’s unapologetically black, unapologetically queer, and unapologetically female.
Click on the link below if you want to watch the accompanying visual for Janelle Monáe's "Dirty Computer."