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Dirty Computer by Janelle Monae is a Schizophrenic Grab Bag Composed Partially of Semi-Permanent Etude and Otherwise of Atrocious, Rehashed and Machinated Mainstream Goop”

Janelle Monae is an aesthetic celebrity masquerading as a musician.
Somewhere out there, I imagine, is the perfect person, in tune with what’s going on with music but somehow ignorant of who this latest pop bimbo Janelle Monae is. Anyway, I’m writing to the 99% of Americans who follow music and who have indeed heard of her, a number I’m pretty confident in given that she just graced the cover of Rolling Stone.
On the magazine page, she’s decked out in copious makeup, with that obligatory sort of vacant look characteristic of “cool Americans,” a nation unfeeling enough to initiate a genocide and slavery of two respective races of people and oversee all these constant murders. I’m not going to comment any more on the look she has on her face but I must say that her album Dirty Computer strikes me very much as a situation where she has no songwriting skill even alleged, let alone legitimately executed, and she is basically a mindless conduit, presented for her ability to fit the rendered aesthetic mold of “beautiful woman,” attached to this music which for the most part, but interestingly not completely, amounts basically to pointless fu**ing noise.
The opening title track of Dirty Computer is quite listenable, musically speaking, for a couple of reasons. For instance, it’s really not a total copy of what’s already come out, unlike the disco electronica beat and the stupid faux-funky bass synth of some other stuff on this album — melodically, “Dirty Computer” pronounces itself with avidity and a certain crisp songwriting knack. It’s full of beautiful, swirling and “wah-wah”-sounding [1] synths, and the simplicity of the arrangement allows the divine texture of Monae’s voice to emerge and cloak the mix in a profound intimacy. The tone and inflections of her vocal on this track are somewhat vapid and lacking in strong feeling, but I don’t particularly find this to be a drawback since on it she is actually claiming to be a “Dirty Computer” [2]. In a way, then, this plays as strange irony, and maybe I should have just listened to her when she said that what she was in life was a dirty computer, but then, on Wikipedia, she is billed as a “singer-songwriter,” which she’s obviously not.
This “Crazy, Classic, Life” song just really pi**es me off for numerous reasons, a totally pointless debacle wherein she sings about getting naked in a limousine and going to faraway places — things which pretty much disqualify a person from being able to actually emotionally invest in everyday people or patiently hear their stories, in other words. Elsewhere on the album, on “Take a Byte,” she brags about not being the type of girl you take home to your mother (an obvious swipe from Rick James’ “Super Freak”), saying then that “I tell no lies”, but she fails completely to explain why an ideal visit to a boyfriend’s mom would necessarily entail any lying, or give an example of what such a lie might be, elements which could have been entertaining tokens for her.
I mean, if you’re going to be an a**hole, like say, Eminem in “Kill You” or Jay-Z in “Ni**a What,” you might as well go all out (like they certainly did), or at least be explicit in why you’re on this tip. I mean I fully realize that it’s encouraged, if not mandated, in our current system to make antipathetic and negative statements as a way of cultural modeling, but it’s that knee-jerk reversion to formula, the grasping to the multiples-of-four structure and phrasing sets and romantic lyrical themes without any scruple of variation that really makes Dirty Computer a massive travesty. It is not, however, a DISAPPOINTMENT in the sense of having fallen short of my expectations, since when I saw her dolled up on that Rolling Stone cover I figured that her appeal would be mostly visual.
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[1] I use this term in reference to the guitar pedal known as the “wah-wah pedal.”
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[2] Just to be clear, neither do I find this song to actually be an effective sociological lamentation of people transforming into computers. Rather, I just hear it as a listenable pop song much like Mr. Probz’ “American Dreaming.”

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