Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer Review

It wasn’t long ago that I saw Janelle Monae on countless red carpets in sometimes-outrageous outfits and people going crazy for her. And I had no idea who she was. Then she goes and drops singles like Make Me Feel, Django Jane and I Like That – which is when I realised that her red carpet looks aren’t her biggest statements.

Back when Make Me Feel was released and I was reading into the lyrics, I picked up on the line: “an emotional sexual bender.” These were the first hints of her new album, Dirty Computer, being her most personal and sincere yet. These intimate themes weave throughout the track list, with many songs touching on race, sexuality – particularly poignant for an artist who recently came out as pansexual – and gender equality, with often bold instrumentalism to match.

The album opens with the eponymous song; featuring Brian Wilson, it’s a slow, reflective starter with hard-hitting lyrics, but kicks off a stream of delightful synth-filled numbers. Track number two – Crazy, Classic, Life – is a rhythmic tune with a hushed glow, deliberating liberation, with Take a Byte following in the same subtly funky vein, the euphoric bass at its epicentre.

Following that is Jane’s Dream, a snappy interlude that bridges the softer notions of the previous tracks to the more audacious, and frankly better, numbers. This is where singles’ Make Me Feel and Django Jane show their faces, with the former’s infectious tongue-clicks, squelchy bass and summery feel making it an album highlight, and the latter’s brave attempt at rap – so distinctive from the rest of the album, but also not out of place, is an exciting addition. Preceding Django Jane on the track list is Screwed; a slick, guitar-based number featuring Zoe Kravitz that celebrates sex amidst destruction. Pynk is a popping, pulsating, quietly brilliant number, with Monae’s soft vocals and luscious harmonies layered over finger-snaps before guitars explode for the chorus. Rounding off the effervescent pop of the middle section of Dirty Computer is I Got The Juice; a sizzling hot collaboration with Pharrell, this is perhaps the most radio-ready of the lot, with some of the catchiest lyrics on the album.

I Like That follows like a gentle wave that introduces the ‘come down’ section of the album. While the single is still fierce, it is a peaceful protest, with it’s confident lyrics married with a muted backing track. Don’t Judge Me is a dark horse; it may not be as instrumentally challenging as some of its predecessors, but it’s smooth use of orchestra and acoustic, together with very raw, very straight-from-the-heart lyricism makes it an asset to Dirty Computer. So Afraid comes close to its beauty but can’t quite compare. Americans – the album’s final offering – is a final push for revolution, rejuvenating the last portion of the track list with its choir-like harmonies and upbeat instrumentalism, but also alongside cheesy spoken word from a sampled speech that just doesn’t really sit right. Considering the maturity and strength of the rest of the album, this element just seems a little theatrical.

I can see why so many people are extremely excited about this album; it is brutally honest and has some astonishing tracks. They may not be completely groundbreaking, but it is a thrilling lot of unpredictable songs. The only question is: how had I not really known who Janelle Monae was sooner?

Janelle Monae: Dirty Computer – 7/10

Ellie Chivers

This Weeks Music Video with Father John Misty, Janelle Monae, Chvrches and Prince

Single Review – Janelle Monae – I Like That

Punctuated by percussion and punchy bass, Janelle Monae’s new single, I Like That, is laid back pop excellence. The self-assuring lyrics take centre stage, layered on top of minimalistic instrumentalism to let the message of confidence shine through. Shimmering harmonies add a little extra something to the chorus and intro, and the chorus lyrics will be stuck in your head all day. This is the perfect chilled mood-boosting track, and features on Monae’s new album, Dirty Computer.

Ellie Chivers

This Weeks Music Video with Janelle Monáe, Everything Everything, Wolf Alice, The Voidz and Pussy Riot

Single Review – Janelle Monáe – Make Me Feel

In new single Make Me Feel, Janelle Monae has bought Prince’s Kiss to a modern audience. The silky tones of Monae’s vocal melt over effortlessly funky hooks, quirky percussion and plush bass, smoothly singing lyrics deliberating lust and her sexuality; the subject of many a Janelle Monae interview. It is a song that is truly alive with colour. The eightiesness of the track makes it undeniably fun, with velvety harmonies adding a layer of sophistication to the pop-y single. There’s something electrifyingly cinematic about the song, which makes the announcement of her new album – Dirty Computer – very exciting indeed.

Ellie Chivers

This Weeks Music Video with Grimes feat. Janelle Monae, Kings of Leon, Chance The Rapper, M.I.A, Depeche Mode, Dirty Projectors, Goldfrapp and The Staves

Grimes – Art Angles Review

Grimes is the musical guise of Vancouver’s Montreal based Claire Elise Boucher. The former neuroscience student has applied such an intelligent and methodical approach to her music with a free flowing and eccentric attitude and style that sets her music apart from others. It’s been over three years since her album Visions which was heralded as one of the most important albums of the 21st Century with it’s electronic thrills and spills, both dark and lighted hearted in places. With her scrapping an entire album last year which looked to switch to more trap drop orientated sounds, she altered her approach early this year with ‘Realiti’. It offered more shimmering electronica and soft melodies and it would seem this is the general she’s taken with this album; her fourth studio effort.

‘Flesh Without Blood’ has a genuine Rock Pop slant entwined with those prominent elements of intricate industrial electronica and this is lightly glossed over with an echoed production which is only enhanced with her lightly distorted vocals that glaze over the instrumentation. The track is cleverly produced and shifts and alters it’s focus almost constantly throughout the track whilst being catchy and melodic, but also remaining to have something more to it. A great and intricate single. ‘SCREAMS’ features Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes and Taiwanese lyrics delivered with speed. Around this are repeating guitar samples and a range of tumbling percussion mixed with drum samples. The song is tinged with heavier and rough edged guitars, heavier beats and echoed screeches which cleverly follow a muting of the music for maximum effect. A song that is as dynamic and as varied as Grimes herself. ‘Realiti’ has since been re-worked from it’s winter version. It contains a more prominent and oscillating beat and a multi-layered set of vocals of varying tones and clarity. Her primary vocals are more isolated and crisp and are delivered with a pop hook to carry the song on through it’s expansive nature.

The title track is a pure pop that is so sweet it will rot your teeth. Everything from the popping guitars and snapping beats and high pitched engineered melodies, but even in this setting Grimes is able to generate a sense of something more in the chorus with the sweeping vocal and travels through the instrumentation. A track that is difficult to get on terms with at first. ‘Venus Fly’ opens with the heightened warped synths akin to early Daft Punk, but then pulls itself away into heavy beats and echoed vocals from Janelle Monae with bounce around the tight confines of the track. The bridge sheds a little more light on to the track with smoother production before it goes off into pure dark electronica accented with a fiddle of all things. It is one of the best tracks on the album as it keeps you on your toes throughout and is unrelenting in it’s pent up energy. ‘Kill. V Maim’ is a track of unrestricted dance music with it’s pop beats and Grimes extravagant, shifting vocals which go on to be taken over by heavy beats and ridiculously distorted guitars and negatively pitch shifted vocals. It almost sounds like what Lady Gaga wished her music would sound like and it has no concept of boundaries. Tracks such as ‘California’ features a lightly distorted production and a steady, rotating riff with high pitched, yet smooth vocals and rapid handclap samples. These tracks feature often on the album and though superficial at first, she goes on to use it as a basic for odd combinations and fusions. The album is a glorious piece of pop and dance music which has never been so shifted and stretched to it’s limits before, but with Art Angles Grimes’ work is done.

Grimes – Art Angles = 8.5/10

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

This Weeks Music Video with Adele, Florence + The Machine, Grimes, Savages, Duran Duran & Smashing Pumpkins

This Week’s Music Video with Florence + the Machine, Young Fathers, Janelle Monae, Belle & Sebastian, Panda Bear and TV on the Radio

This Week’s Music Video with Beck, Lana Del Rey, Janelle Monae, Franz Ferdinand and Mac DeMarco

Beck – Heart Is a Drum

 

Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence

 

Janelle Monae – Electric Lady

 

Franz Ferdinand – Stand On The Horizon

 

Mac DeMarco – Chamber of Reflection