In "Pynk," a single from Janelle Monae's third full-length computer, "Dirty Computer," sings, "Pink beyond forest and thighs / Pink as the secrets you hide, maybe." Her video is an audacious celebration of lady parts, the broad percussive pop hymn is the closest thing that Monae has come to decoding figures about her sexuality. (To that end, she recently came out as "a queer black woman in the United States … open to learning more about who I am")
So far, the singer's production has been more accurate than provocative. Monae, elegantly androgynous and charmingly extroverted, wrapped up her albums ("The ArchAndroid" of 2010 and "Electric Lady" of 2013) in a disconcerting Afro-futuristic story built around an alter-ego, the revolutionary robot Cindi Mayweather. The artist would have benefited from the creative editions, but the sheer joy of his genre-jumping tendencies (doo-wop, funk, soul, hip hop) proved to be a fertile distraction from the fatigue of the concept. This has also made her a kind of artistic artist: although she was not yet a great creator of success, for "Dirty Computer" Monae recruited collaborators such as Fan ("Make Me Feel"), Brian Wilson (who sings impressive harmonies in the title song), Stevie Wonder (the spoken word "Stevie & # 39; s Dream"), Grimes ("Pynk"), and Pharrell Williams ("I Got The Juice").
"Dirty Computer" and its generously budgeted "Emotional Film" – a 45-minute dystopic film that is visually dazzling but largely acts as a framework for the four music videos on the album (see here ) – also sometimes doubles under the weight of his great ambition. But this time Monae has essentially rephrased Mayweather as herself, which is what makes "Dirty Computer" satisfactory.
The emphasis on self-expression along with evocative visual effects has invited comparisons with Beyoncé's "Lemonade". It is a flattering analogy, although reductive; the black female experience is not monolithic. Monae's work may be about empowerment, but her verses are not about navigating the male gaze but rather about closing it. The assertive rap "Django Jane", for example, offers delicious jabs, on the face like, "Remember when they used to say it seemed too manly? Black magic, can not stand it / You can not ban it, like a bandit."  Monae can be challenging, but her kind of resistance manages to continue to affirm life. For example, in her follow-up notes, Monae designates "I Like That" as a replica of "shitty kids everywhere (from the tropics to the White House) that make the lives of brown girls so hard." Actually, "I Like That" is an R & B ballad to feel good that makes clever use of their crystal clear voices.
None of this would matter much if the songs did not work, and at its best, "Dirty Computer" weaves racial and gender politics into a double helix of liberated lyrics and skillfully oblique musicality. "I should know by the way I use my compression," he sings about the funky "Make Me Feel", courtesy of his synthesizer from his mentor Prince, the song a nod to his creative peak before the '90s. "That you have the answers to my confessions." In "I Got the Juice," a call and response with Williams on top of a "Milkshake" -lite bass groove (Williams co-produced both), states, "You tried to grab my pussy / This pussy got you".
Even minor offerings, such as "Crazy, Classic, Life" and "Screwed", do not disappoint in the one-line department ("I just want to find a boy, and I hope she loves me too" and "You've ruined the world, we will go back down ", respectively), even if they pale in contrast to the sonic abandonment of the most ambitious songs on the album.
In "Django Jane" Monae threatens to "start a pussy riot". Is on the way. This is the new Monae – speaking her truth, subverting sounds, wearing trousers – and we are there with her.