For those of us who are pop culture fanatics, most would consider award show season to be our Super Bowl. We’ve all gone through the whirlwind of emotions that goes along with seeing our favorite stars on these big nights — the awe we experience over fashion moments, the eagerness for career-defining performances and the saltiness that consumes us when our favorite performer manages to lose an award we thought they had in the bag. Music’s biggest night is no exception to all of this.
The 61st Annual Grammy Awards is bound to be a topic of conversation and hopefully will produce noteworthy moments. Although the ceremony is a celebration of all genres of music, the awards placed in the general field — Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Album of the Year — are the most anticipated. The artists headlining these three categories include Drake, Cardi B, Kendrick Lamar and Brandi Carlile among many other talents.
Over the past couple of years, decisions the Recording Academy has made with the Album of the Year category have been questionable to some. Both Beyoncé’s snubs in 2015 and 2017 as well as Taylor Swift’s win in 2016 have caused fans to lose respect for the coveted awards show.
With that being said, recognizing significant albums that will stand the test of time amongst the world of short-lived singles is more important than ever. Out of all the nominees for Album the Year in 2019, Janelle Monáe’s “Dirty Computer” checks all of the boxes on what a true album is supposed to be.
Monáe has always been first and foremost an album artist. She is one for telling a story instead of relying on trends, which is why many describe her as being immensely underrated. Her previous works “The ArchAndroid” and “The Electric Lady” are all apart of the story of Monáe’s character Cindy Mayweather. For the first time, “Dirty Computer” does not follow the Metropolis narrative the star is most well-known for. This installment is by far her most personal and revealing work.
“Dirty Computer” is arguably the most calculated and culturally relevant concept album since Beyoncé’s “Lemonade.” The idea encompassing the album title resides in looking at what makes us unique and how others may view those attributes as viruses or bugs. Whether it is because of your race, gender and/or sexuality, Monáe celebrates herself and others who have been pushed to the margins of society.
The album’s fourteen tracks can be grouped into three phases. Songs like “Crazy, Classic, Life” and “Dirty Computer” chronicle Monáe’s recognition on how she is viewed by society. Then comes the celebration, which dives into embracing herself unapologetically in tracks such as “I Got the Juice” and “I Like That.” Lastly, Monáe sings about redefining and reclaiming what it truly means to be apart of our country in “Americans.”
With all the outstanding messages this album possesses, musically and visually this body of work is stunning and completely original.
We are past the eighties and nineties where artists like Michael Jackson and Missy Elliott were all about putting their big budgets on music videos. Now, there are only a select few that continue on this legacy. On top of the album, Monáe released what she calls an “emotion picture” that involves a fantastic storyline. The gorgeous visual for “Pynk” is also nominated this year for Best Music Video.
The youthful pop sound intermixes her appreciation for her mentor Prince’s eternal funk in songs like “Make Me Feel” and involves arguably the year’s most overlooked rap performance in “Django Jane.” The music and the lyrics are stellar and blend perfectly together. There is no need to put this album on shuffle and there is especially no need to press the skip button.
Whether or not the Recording Academy decides to award Monáe with this honor on February 10, there is no denying that this album will live on. What matters most is that “Dirty Computer” has made all different kinds of people feel seen and has given people the bravery to unleash who they were always supposed to be. No matter what happens, here’s to celebrating the music and all of the dirty computers out there.