Janelle Monae demands to be heard on new singles

Written By Mick Stinelli, Co-A&E Editor

Janelle Monáe has so far released four singles from her upcoming album, “Dirty Computer,” out April 27.

Judging by the album’s current offerings, it’s shaping up to be on par with “The ArchAndroid” and “The Electric Lady,” her previous two offerings and genuine modern classics.

The first single she released, “Django Jane,” found Monáe in a rare state. She raps with the force of a veteran, with a hunger heard in few of her contemporaries. It’s all bars and no hook, she takes on tour-de-force of subjects, ranging from her origins in Kansas City to the strength of black femininity via “How to Get Away With Murder” and “Scandal.”

Feminine pride courses through the track, with lines like “We gave you God, we gave you earth / We fem the future, don’t make it worse.” At the end of the song, she leaves the listener with a question: “If she the G.O.A.T now, would anybody doubt it?” It’s hard to argue with her.

“Make Me Feel” somehow finds a way to top the bold bombast of “Django Jane.” Monáe shocked fans when she revealed that the song wasn’t just influenced by Prince; the Purple One himself contributed a synth line to the song.

According to Monáe, Prince worked extensively on the album, and it’s undoubtedly clear on “Make Me Feel.” The guitar licks are straight out of “Kiss,” and the sexy lyrics call back to “Dirty Mind” like few songs today can. It’s an incredible homage to the late, great funk icon.

“Prince was actually working on the album with me before he passed on to another frequency,” Monáe said in an interview with BBC Radio 1’s Annie Mac.

One can only imagine what kind of influence Prince will have on the album as a whole, but that will remain unclear until the album’s liner notes are released alongside the album.

Grimes – who featured Monáe on her “Art Angles” album on the impossibly catchy “Venus Fly” – appears on “Pynk.”

It’s pure pop, and full of less-than-subtle references to the female anatomy.

The synth arpeggio under the snaps is the perfect backdrop to the airy melodies in the verses. The song builds to an explosive hook, where the pair sing “’Cause boy, it’s cool if you got the blue, we got the Pynk.” It’s the perfect track for a top-down drive in the summer.

“I Like That,” her most recent cut released from the album, continued to shock. It takes on a starkly different tone than any of the previous singles.

Stuttering hi-hats over 808 snares and kicks gives it a contemporary beat, but the melody seems to have come from some other place entirely.

Monáe shows over her incredible vocal chops, then drops into a rap breakdown with burns such as, “I remember when you laughed when I cut my perm off and you rated me a six.”

It’s a continuation of the feminist themes that have run throughout “Dirty Computer’s” previous singles.

It’s not a subject that Monáe hasn’t touched on before. She was a lead in the rousing “Hidden Figures,” a story about the black women who shaped the Space Race. That film, alongside her stunning performance in “Moonlight,” earned her a nomination for Best Actress at the BET Awards.

Her previous album, “The Electric Lady,” featured appearances from icons like Erykah Badu on “Q.U.E.E.N.” and Solange on “Electric Lady,” both of which carried strong feminist themes.

But it’s an idea that carries heavier weight following the defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016 and the #MeToo and #TimesUp revelations of 2017. Monáe herself spoke up at the Grammys in February, saying: “Just as we have the power to shape culture, we have the power to undo the culture that does not serve us well.”

Monáe has always made an effort to shift the culture into her own space. Her afro-futurist vision sets her apart from any of her contemporaries; it’s an aesthetic that is purely her own.

“Dirty Computer” couldn’t come out at a better time. “Black Panther,” with its own afro-futurist concept, ruled the box office. Cardi B released her debut album, “Invasion of Privacy,” to unanimous acclaim from critics and fans. Beyoncé owned Coachella with a career-defining performance.

These women are among the many that Monáe herself has called to action. They’re the ones who are shifting and shaping the culture, setting a standard for a generation of new performance and acting as role models for generations of young women.

Monáe has become even more empowered in her dedication to lifting up women through her art, and this diligent mission has finally come to fruition amidst a culture that needs it more than ever.