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Albums of the Year 2018: Janelle Monáe - Dirty Computer | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year 2018: Janelle Monáe - Dirty Computer

Albums of the Year 2018: Janelle Monáe - Dirty Computer

Irresistible pop nuggets delivered a message of positivity and social change

Janelle Monáe shook off the alter ego for her most open album yet

Janelle Monáe had already established herself as pop’s next great innovator with The ArchAndroid and Electric Ladyland, two albums full of earworms, high production and retro-futuristic lyrics. This all-too-brief musical career seemed in jeopardy when Monáe successfully made the jump to film, with her debut features Hidden Figures and Moonlight winning heavily at the Oscars. After all, her act was as much reliant on theatre as it was songwriting, perhaps this was always the endgame. But with the joint release of singles “Django Jane” and “Make Me Feel” in early 2018, it appeared that if anything, her acting had focused her music into something purer, more powerful, and more honest.

Those two singles perfectly indicated what was to come: “Make Me Feel” is a lip-smacking funk anthem straight from Prince’s 80s pomp, while “Django Jane” a sparse, angry, proud dedication to “black girl magic”. The two are almost opposites in sound, yet occupy either end of the spectrum that is Dirty Computer. Throughout the album, pop perfection carries a message of social and personal pride, sincerer than any commercial star, and downright catchier than most too.

Gone was the alter-ego Cindi Mayweather, Dirty Computer was all Monáe. “Pynk” revels in the female form, complete with labia-themed trousers, while “America” is a celebration of her country’s diversity, and denigration of its divisions. As a pansexual, African-American woman, Monáe speaks from a place of honesty and authority, and with such pride that could inspire a generation.

Dirty Computer is simply a triumph in every way. The catchiest radio-friendly hooks are spent on songs that could never get past censorship regulations - not through lewdness, but because songs like “Screwed” are a celebration of sexual empowerment and that deserves a huge chorus. The album’s contributors all bring an unexpected depth – who else can boast Brian Wilson deputising on harmonies? Even the obligatory Pharrell Williams appearance is restrained and earned. From production, to songwriting, to purpose, Janelle Monáe reached a higher plane in 2018.

Two more essential albums for 2018

Estrons – You Say I’m Too Much, I Say You’re Not Enough

John Grant – Love Is Magic

Gig of the Year

The Go! Team, Boy Azooga, Gaz Coombes at Swn Festival, Cardiff

Track of the Year

Christine and the Queens - Girlfriend

The catchiest radio-friendly hooks are spent on songs that could never get past censorship regulations

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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