Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Janelle Monáe: Dirty Computer [Atlantic, 2018]
A self-made black woman whose intellectual ambition anchors woke-while-the-world-slept politics and whose moves and style enrapture a majority-female international fanbase, MonŠe has long been everything you'd want in a musical savior except a compelling musician. Her mentor Prince was so smitten that on his final album he tried to turn into her. But MonŠe's voice has always been too thin and her songwriting too intellectual--until now, when she makes a pass at turning into Prince and gets close. Tracks five-six-seven--"Screwed" with its "You fucked the world up now / We'll fuck it all back down" brag, the raspy-rapped autobio "Django Jane," and the folds-of-your-vagina-to-folds-of-your-brain "Pynk"--are a "1999" for 2018 with lyrics that don't stop don't stop, the apex of an album that's designed to have one. Finally MonŠe drops the "android" mask, for me a relief, and comes out as a woman-loving woman, for me no surprise insofar as I'd thought about it at all. But she calls herself "pansexual" as opposed to "gay" or "bi" because she wants it all. Too often prosex albums are shallow. While remaining intellectual, this one is more personal than the android dared. A-