Janelle Monáe’s “Dirty Computer” Is Finally Here and Even Queerer Than We Imagined

So, it’s the day we’ve all been waiting for, the day I’ve been anticipating since this fANDROID first saw the trailer for Dirty Computer during a screening of Black Panther — the new Janelle Monáe album and its accompanying visual component, Dirty Computer, is finally here. And while our intrepid Janelle Monáe beat reporter, Carmen, is hunkered down dissecting Dirty Computer for a full review that’ll run here next week, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to open the floor up for your immediate reactions to Monáe’s first album in five years. I want to hear all your thoughts and feelings about it.

But first, did you watch the Dirty Computer visual component, which debuted at midnight on BET and this morning on MTV? Was it as spectacular as you hoped?

When Beyoncé released the visual album for her self-titled album back in 2013, she was nostalgic for a time when listening to new music was more than just shuffling through the music on your phone or iPod. She wanted to re-establish the bond — broken by a shift away from videos and an increased focus on singles — between the artist and the fan by inviting them into her head.

“I see music, it’s more than just what I hear,” Beyoncé said. “When I’m connected to something, I immediately see a visual or a series of images that are tied to a feeling or an emotion, a memory from my childhood, thoughts about life, my dreams or my fantasies and they’re all connected to the music.”

As I watched the “emotion picture” that accompanied Dirty Computer‘s release, I thought about the Queen Bey’s words and how much Janelle Monáe was looking to do the same. Monáe has always been an exquisite storyteller, crafting an afrofuturistic world long before any of us knew what Wakanda was, but she’s also willing to live in ambiguity, allowing an android, Cindi Mayweather, to be her stand-in. But this time, there’s no android, only her — the real Janelle Monáe — grappling with what it means to be a black queer woman in today’s world.

Oh, just nevermind.

Dirty Computer is a near-future [emotion picture] about a citizen who finds love and danger in a totalitarian society. She’s an outlaw because she’s being herself,” Monáe told Billboard. “Overall, I wanted to reflect what’s happening in the streets right now, and what might happen tomorrow if we don’t band together and fight for love.”

The 44-minute film is part Westworld, part Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, part The Handmaid’s Tale and part THX 1138. Jane (Monáe) is a dirty computer and is having everything that’s “dirty” about her — all the things the outside world considers “not normal” — stripped away, but she fights the cleansing process, fighting to hold onto the memories of her affair with Zen (Tessa Thompson).

If I wasn’t a Janessa shipper before, I became one, right at this very moment.

“Thinking will only make it harder,” Zen says, urging Jane to accept the cleansing process. “People used to work so hard to be free but we’re lucky here, all we have to do is forget.”

Then, Jane whispers back, “But I don’t want to forget you,” and, as my heart breaks, Zen answers, “You don’t have a choice.”

But the entire purpose of this emotion picture, the entire purpose of this album, maybe even the entire purpose of Janelle Monáe’s life right now, is to remind us that whatever the circumstances, we do still have a choice. We can give into the the “nevermind,” we can conform and allow others to strip us of the things that make us “dirty” or we can realize that whatever challenge lies in front of us, love can overcome it.

It’s perhaps fitting, then, that this album and the film that accompanies it, dropped on GLSEN’s annual “Day of Silence,” a day devoted to spreading awareness about the effects of the bullying and harassment of LGBT students. It asks us to be seen, to choose freedom and to accept love in whatever way it comes into your life.

“I woke up like this…I woke up like this…”

“I want young girls, young boys, non-binary, gay, straight, queer people who are having a hard time dealing with their sexuality, dealing with feeling ostracized or bullied for just being heir unique selves, to know that I see you,” Monáe told Rolling Stone. “This album is for you. Be proud.”

SEE! Janelle Monáe made an album just for me and you, and it’s your solemn duty as a queer woman to go and listen to it right at this very second and share all your thoughts and emotions in the comments. Now, I don’t want to step on Carmen’s toes — again, she’ll have a thorough review of the album for you next week — but I can’t resist sharing a few thoughts on Dirty Computer, the album:

First, I’m not sure how anyone can listen to the closing verses on “Crazy, Classic, Life” or “Screwed” or the entirety of “Django Jane” and not long for a full album of Janelle Monáe rapping. I NEED IT IN MY LIFE, JANELLE!

Second, I’ve been listening to “I Like That” and Drake’s “Nice for What” in tandem, on repeat, since they dropped. I didn’t realize how perfect the pairing was until I read Monáe’s description: “inspired by wack ass fuckboys everywhere (from the traphouse to the White House) who make the lives of little brown girls so damn hard.” Sounds about right…

And lastly, how do we think that Brian Wilson collaboration of the title track happened? Like, how is it possible that those two people ended up in a room and were like “we should definitely work together?” And, also? How did such an unlikely pairing churn out the perfect song?

So, Janelle’s here, she’s queer and she’s got an amazing new album out. Let me know all of your feelings about it.

A black biracial, bisexual girl raised in the South, working hard to restore North Carolina's good name. Lover of sports, politics, good TV and Sonia Sotomayor. Spends her Thursday nights trying to make #Shonday happen.

Natalie has written 135 articles for us.


  1. I can’t I’ve got too many feelings. [insert the cries in bisexual picture]

    Bubbling at the top is how having this album when I was 12-13 would have made hating myself for being “dirty” (bi and kinky, I was high on some sex neg feminism) a lot harder and might have felt less like moral collapse into depravity.

    And I saw Black Panther within days of Make Me Feel’s music video release all butch’d out in my bi pride Commander Rogers shirt, leather jacket, battered levis, and combat boots. Then later in same bi-butch outfit that day did a strip while the video played in the background.

    That was a real thing that happened in an organic fashion not a plan to have the most bisexual day possible.

    I have never seriously said “Blessed!” before cause I was raised Catholic not Southern Baptist.
    But “Bi-lesst”

  2. its so so so so perfect. I also got serious The Man Who Fell to Earth vibes in the intentionally cornball scifi outfits and the themes of queer alienation and conversion therapy.

    She’s everything and we do not deserve her!!!

  3. I watched the MTV premiere and then went and watched the version on youtube and then listened to the album one and a half times.

    Honestly, happy friday to me. I can’t get over the spoken word verse in PYNK.

  4. I feel like I’ll have to listen to it a few times to really get into it, cause it’s not really my genre of music, but it’s still so good! And Django Jane is basically the only rap song I like. It’s an incredible album and Janelle Monae is such an icon.

  5. 1) I keep playing the videos for Make Me Feel and Prince’s Kiss back-to-back and it’s like Janelle is his musical heir in the best way.
    2) I listened to the album as soon as it dropped last night and two more times at work today and I love it. I Got The Juice is going to be stuck in my head for days and I am disappointed that there’s no video for it.
    3) The emotion picture is afrofuturistic sci-fi amazingness. That spoken word in Pynk! Janelle has a right to privacy but I will never believe that she is not madly in love with Tessa. I actually had to pause the video after that to gather myself. And the moment I realized that the movie was also depicting a polyamorous relationship was a revelation. I am so impressed with how very on-her-own-terms this is and I hope it’s successful!

  6. I have so many feelings about this especially after she came out yesterday I can’t even begin to organise them! The album is so incredible in so many ways and it’s just so fucking seamless – the tracks all slide into each other and its just such a complete whole – made me realise how rare that is now!

  7. ok hear me out, what if Janelle and Tessa are polyamorous irl and Tessa and Gina Rodriguez Maybe Bisexual are also dating

    also in seriousness just major kudos to them for depicting a HEALTHY UNAMBIGUOUSLY POLYAMOROUS RELATIONSHIP ON SCREEN (which is uhh extremely rare like if anybody can tell me any other examples of that please do?)

  8. I went out yesterday and managed to buy Archandroid the cd, which was no easy feat, considering where I live.
    It’s epic, afro-futuristic soundtracky goodness. Get it immediately if you are into orchestral, swinging, retro stuff.
    Why oh why didn’t she manage to do a film version of that, I want to know what happened next!!

  9. Add: I’ve never been so excited about a musician since I discovered KD Lang a very long time ago.
    Here is background info about the Metropolis backstory with some really intersting suggestions

    “1. Similar to Björk’s Biophilia, an accompanying app or app album would work wonders for the next (and last!) two suites of Metropolis. A different app per song could help flesh out the narrative aspect of each track, allowing the user to connect to the music in a new way. Or, an interactive, encyclopedic-like app could be released alongside the last album, collecting and presenting all of the story into one place, with a chronology, city map, political structure, and other details hinted at throughout the music.

    2. A social media presence for Cindi Mayweather. As the leader of an uprising, it would make sense that Cindi would be utilizing digital networks in order to spread her message to the masses. This could work whether she exists in our present time or in the future. Cindi could be communicating with her fellow future robots, sending out cryptic clues through Twitter and posting subversive art to Tumblr. If she somehow managed to get messages to humanity of today or even time travel, her warnings to us directly would also work in such realms, even allowing her to interact with fans on Facebook, answering questions and asking for their help. Because of the futuristic setting and her own electronic nature, conversing across social and digital media works perfectly for her character.”

  10. I’m so obsessed with this album and the emotion picture right now! I made Janellé and Tessa kissing my phone background because they’re cute and everything seems right when I look at them.
    I recommend you listen to Metropolis and The Archandroid because there’s more to queer afrofruturisic story y’all! Her imagination knows no bounds.

  11. Yes omg emotion picture is right, I’ve never been more full of feelings, it is sooo good.

    Just commenting because I just came across this Rolling Stone article answering the “how on earth did Brian Wilson come on board” question, and it’s just as good as you’d expect: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/janelle-monae-talks-enlisting-brian-wilson-for-new-album-w519575?utm_source=email. Basically she just asked and he was like, yes please!!

  12. So I’ve listened to the album a dozen times since it went out but I only been able to see the Emotion Picture last night and wow.


    All the feels.

    The new end of “PYNK”.. made me cry.

    The end, the other end, the polyamory.

    Everything was perfect.

    And I’m so I glad I have a place where I can say all this and read from others with the same feelings <3

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