Janelle Monáe has made some great headlines throughout the year thus far: Her album release, her coming out as pansexual, her stunning music videos and we can’t forget the vagina pants. Monae recently sat down with Allure to discuss the meaning and motivation behind her most recent album, what inspired her to move forward with the album and some of her fears.
Janelle Monáe’s album, Dirty Computer, came from an open place in comparison to her previous work. Monáe clarifies that the album isn’t meant to be a confessional album, it’s definitely personal but it was meant to resonate with many people.
"It’s about all of us, all the people that at least I feel a responsibility to. I had to pick who I was comfortable pissing off and who I wanted to celebrate."
Monáe shared some vague reservations about what’s happening in the world as of late. She shared that the election arose some anger in her seeing as it felt like a direct attack on people of color, on black women, on women’s rights, the LGBTQIA community and poor people.
"I felt like it was a direct attack saying, 'You’re not important. You’re not valuable and we’re going to make laws and regulations that make it official and make it legal for us to devalue you and treat you like second-class citizens or worse,'" Monáe shared with Allure.
With the events happening in the country becoming overwhelming, Monáe reached a point where she had to stop recording to avoid making an "angry album." However, the two things that got her back on her feet happened to be therapy and a some advice from Stevie Wonder. Therapy helped her achieve some censor-less unpacking of emotional weight, affirmations and validity to her feelings. Stevie Wonder, on the other hand, gave her the following piece of advice to take home with her:
"Even when you’re upset, use words of love / ’Cause God is love / Allah is love / Jehovah is love / So don’t let your expressions, even of anger / Be confused or misconstrued / Turn them into words of expression / That can be understood by using words of love"
Stevie Wonder’s words posed a challenge that Monáe was willing to accept: Choosing to come from a place of love as opposed to anger. With the help of those two factors in her life, Dirty Computer was born.
Monáe created the album in three parts, or 'movements' as she likes to call them — reckoning, celebration, and reclamation. The first four songs begin the reckoning portion of the album.
"Realizing what you represent to society, that you’re a dirty computer. It’s the sting of being called a nigger for the first time by your oppressor. The sting of being called bitch for the first time by a man. You’re like, 'OK, this is how I’m viewed in this society,'" Monáe revealed.
As for the second part, the celebration, it begins with "Django Jane" and is a form of self-empowerment. It’s choosing to celebrate being a dirty computer. "When you have songs like 'Django Jane,' that’s where the pivot happens. It’s like, 'Whoa. I’m here. I’m choosing freedom over fear.'"
The last part of the album is reclamation — a reminder that our ancestors built this country. Monáe calls her album a very American album seen through the lens of a black woman. She reminds us that many things that our ancestors did have been taken for granted or dismissed.
Monáe admits to fearing living openly and free, nonetheless it is a risk she’s prayed on and is willing to take. She believes the future belongs to the dirty computers and we’re glad to be dirty computers with her.
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