Woman Crush Wednesday: Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe is our pick for this week’s Woman Crush Wednesday. 33 1/3 will publish a book on Monáe’s Dirty Computer in 2020.

It has been a time of triumph for Janelle Monáe. Last year, Billboard named her trailblazer of the year for their Women in Music awards. This year, Monáe will star in a biographical film about Harriet Tubman that is already generating Oscar buzz. Her album Dirty Computer was one of the most critically acclaimed albums of 2018. It quickly became a queer anthem, one that fits into a wider narrative of resistance happening across music.

Dirty Computer, Monáe’s most ambitious and personal album to date, is a bold proclamation about being a queer black woman in present-day America, in spaces of fear, joy, and empowerment. The albumis both a reckoning and a denegation of oppressive systems that render vast populations of America as second-class citizens.

Dirty Computer is accompanied by a feature length “Emotion Picture.” Emotion Picture is a masterful sci-fi film that depicts a sanitized, monochromatic dystopia, featuring a surveillance state that disciplines queer people and people of color for nonconformity. The ominous allusions to police brutality and white supremacy in Emotion Picture intentionally parallel an American reality shaped by the current political climate. Soon, however, Emotion Picture evolves into an afro-futurist vision, one that is brimming with camp undertones and queer sensuality (“pynk” vagina pants anyone?) As an antidote to the totalitarian nightmare of Dirty Computer, Monáe envisions a funky electro-pop world that is more inclusive, more joyful, and more fluid. As much as the film projects the anxieties of a country fraught with political and racial strife, it also serves as a manifesto of personal freedom and sexual liberation.

In her interview with Rolling Stone about Dirty Computer, Monáe proclaims:

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

Ultimately, Dirty Computer is a powerful confession of insecurity and rage. It is also a demand for freedom, and a reclamation of what it means to be American. For that reason, we can’t wait to publish this 33 1/3.

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