As a Bad Boy protégé, Janelle Monae has since day one been groomed to be an entertainer. The path that has been chartered for her has propelled her into the spotlight, but has not made her into a visionary like she’s desperately trying to be on her latest album Dirty Computer. The album explores multiple themes (insecurity, fear and love), but the execution of it follows every standard formula in the book. Her statements are cliche and transparent, and only graze the surface of what it could.

While not a game-changer, Dirty Computer is a charming effort; more Bruno Mars than Kendrick Lamar. When Monae is not so busy overstating common platitudes and instead embracing the bonuses that come with a privileged life, she sounds at ease, which is when her personality shines the most. Dirty Computer while her best album to date only reiterates what is already know, which is that she’s a talented entertainer who capitalizes off of the strength of other more ambitious leaders.

Dirty Computer

Discarded and forgotten. No longer relevant and outdated. Her relationship with technology and how it relates to society is a constant trope and she continues the exploration, believing that understanding the most important tool in her lifetime will tell her something about human nature. She’s an r&b Wall-E, expressing her beating heart through blips, bleeps and a hard to locate Beach Boy: [LISTEN]

Crazy, Classic, Life

A fat bassline inspires Monae to let her hair down. She’s celebrating life, and hoping that when it’s all said and done that she’ll have no regrets. Money isn’t a concern, neither is long-term relationships or politicians. Her royal friends and a bright sun in the sky is all she needs to feel complete. If she’s feeling frisky then she’s unleashing the beast with a quick romp in the pool: [LISTEN]

Take a Byte

Taking a page out of Beyonce‘s book, Monae is taking a moment to feel herself. She opens with a weather beaten verse, warning her would-be suitors that she’s not the girl you want to bring home to momma. As a newly manufactured cyborg, she’s letting the other fake human’s know that they’re likely not programmed to compute what she’s offering. It’s a plastic beach, and only androids are allowed: [LISTEN]


Pg-13 pop that looks to put the state of the world into a convenient package. She’s satirizing the collision course that the nation’s of the world are on and suggesting cute solutions to the problem. It’s smiles and unicorns, and just when it gets a little too prissy she throws in a f-bomb, which coming from her is as cliche as a middle finger on Instagram. Mildly furious, and meaningless: [LISTEN]

Django Jane

From one pop star to another, Monae is copping styles like it were a closeout sale. It’s Kendrick Lamar she’s biting and the mime show can be heard from the opening jump. She’s nodding to all those who’ve done it better than her like Pussy Riot. Dreaming of what it means to put your neck out on the line inspires her to add her own two cents. But from her ivory tower it hardly reads as authentic: [LISTEN]


Infinite fun with the color pink. She’s imagining it in all its glory, from the bizarre and mundane to the raunchy. It’s a celebration of womanhood and a reminder that no one needs a reason to let loose and have fun. The tongue in cheek tone suits her well, and provides a much-needed break in the action or lack thereof. It’s not deep or prophetic, simply fun and wildly outlandish: [LISTEN]

Make Me Feel

A return to future funk, a Prince-like bubble bath that has her feeling chipper. In these digs she sounds much more at ease, righteous even in that she’s letting her freak flag fly. She’s steaming with desire and when her heart is dialed in there’s no one she can’t have. It’s a seek and destroy effort, and the melodic rap delivery adds a syrupy tone worth celebrating. A slice of modern funk: [LISTEN]

 ‘I Got the Juice

Pseudo-reggae puts Monae in an electric mood. She’s encouraging party-goers to let loose and drink deeply from her cup. The bubbles have gotten to her head, and the light rhythms are making her frisky. Pharrell lends some barely audible vocals, which does very little for the end product. His cameo is uninspiring and the crowded atmosphere leaves the already thin lyrics even more anemic: [LISTEN]

I Like That

Over a bed of sweet vocals, Janelle Monae big ups herself once again. She’s outlining all her characteristics and loving the contradictions that make her, her. The self-love shines in the face of an industry that is constantly asking her to fit into unrealistic molds, ones that they say is good for her brand. It’s a stand that follows other pop stars who are looking to undo industry shackles: [LISTEN]

Don’t Judge Me

No masquerading in this confessional, she’s spelling it out in plain English. The very thought of being judged is leaving her vulnerable, but the tender kisses of her loved one is making her feel complete again. It’s not an easy thing to admit and her candidness is a sign of creative maturity. It doesn’t add to the continuity of the album, but rather stands as its own singular portrait: [LISTEN]

Stevie’s Dream

A short, but powerful message from a true visionary. There is a Music of My Mind element to it that amplifies Stevie‘s psalms of love and peace. All paths lead to god, and no matter what name it goes by the message is all the same. He’s an advocate, asking that instead of hate that people choose the healing power of love:

So Afraid

Crippling fear and debilitating anxiety are taking hold, and she can’t help but vent her frustrations. The pressure to succeed and meet expectation is overwhelming, but she still finds a way to persevere. Talking about it helps her transform the negative energy into a source of strength. She’s finding peace in sincerity, and the unconventional arrangements make for a deeply intuitive effort: [LISTEN]


A potent dose of power pop soundtracks her dissection of the American Dream. The randomness of the lyrics and odd wordplay captures the delusional state she finds herself in. There’s no continuity and it’s because the dream was a lie. The inability to grasp reality is leading her down an unusual rabbit hole, and the only thing she can do to make sense of it all is to add a dose of heartfelt soul: [LISTEN]