Janelle Monáe’s Dazzling Video ‘Dirty Computer’ Demands Viewing


Janelle Monáe’s Dazzling Video ‘Dirty Computer’ Demands Viewing

Natasha Hakimi Zapata
Assistant Editor / Poetry Editor
Natasha Hakimi Zapata holds a Creative Writing M.F.A. from Boston University and both a B.A. in Spanish and a B.A. in English with a creative writing concentration from the University of California, Los…
Natasha Hakimi Zapata

Janelle Monáe's 2018 album "Dirty Computer" has been nominated for a Grammy in the Album of the Year category. Below is a Truthdig post from May 2 regarding Monáe's latest work, which, she says, is dedicated to “marginalized voices.”

"I am not America's nightmare. I am the American dream," sings Janelle Monáe in "Crazy, Classic Life," one of the songs in her latest album, "Dirty Computer."

And what a dream it is. The musician's "emotion picture," a short film including songs from the new album, is replete with queer imagery and plot lines, repudiation of racism and a celebration of progressive American values. Beginning with scenes set in a not-so-distant dystopian future in which cars fly and conformity rules, Monáe paints a picture of dissent and diversity even as authorities use technology to try to erase her protagonist's "dirty" memories and turn her into an acquiescent android.

Through Prince-inspired melodies (Prince collaborated with the artist), powerful raps and lyrics packed with references to historical figures as well as present-day political madness, the R&B artist illustrates the despair of the times, but also offers a blueprint for survival: protest.

Here's a sampling of "Dirty Computer" lyrics:

You fucked the world up now, we'll fuck it all back down
Let's get, let's get screwed
I, I don't care
We'll put water in your guns
We'll do it all for fun

We fem the future, don't make it worse
You want the world? Well, what's it worth?
Emoticons, Decepticons, and Autobots
Who twist the plot?
Who shot the sheriff, then fled to Paris
In the darkest hour, spoke truth to power?

Little rough around the edges but I keep it smooth
I’m always left of center and that’s right where I belong

And then there's her glorious feminist anthem, "Pynk," which reminds us that regardless of gender, politics or race, "Deep inside we're all just Pynk."

The album culminates in "Americans," a song that repurposes right-wing language and laces it with the following speech:

Let me help you in here
Until women can get equal pay for equal work
This is not my America
Until same-gender loving people can be who they are
This is not my America
Until black people can come home from a police stop without being shot in the head
This is not my America
Until poor whites can get a shot at being successful
This is not my America
I can't hear nobody talkin' to me

There's plenty more to say about "Dirty Computer," but make up your own mind after you take a look for yourself in the video player above.

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