When Janelle Monáe came out as queer, LGBT fans were ecstatic.
And then her new album Dirty Computer dropped – sending them into overdrive.
Monáe had already released “Make Me Feel,” the video for which featured seductive lollipop-licking and the singer running to and fro between Thor: Ragnarok star Tessa Thompson and a man.
There was also “PYNK,” a sensual celebration of lesbian sex, vaginas and feminism which involved women kissing.
And never mind that, five years ago, the musician released “Q.U.E.E.N.” – which was originally set to be called “Q.U.E.E.R.” and still includes “queer” being sung in the background.
As it turns out, these queer anthems were just the beginning.
Dirty Computer is life-affirming and politically resonant, but above all, it’s an album in which Monáe proudly exhibits her queer identity.
With her second track on the album, “Crazy, Classic, Life,” the singer demands, asks and argues for the ability to live her life without being judged.
It’s a theme she returns to repeatedly, but one line in particular stands out.
“I just wanna find a god / And I hope she loves me too,” Monáe sings, simultaneously stating that power can be wielded by women and that she wants a powerful, even almighty woman to love her back.
The 32-year-old singer has described unusual, special facets of herself – like her sexuality – as “glitches” in what would otherwise be a picture-perfect, android version of humanity that is socially acceptable but much less interesting.
In “Take A Byte,” she touches on how society expects us to naturally fall into heterosexual relationships, when actually many people are not made that way.
“Your code is programmed not to love me, but you can’t pretend,” she sings, adding: “Oh, what a surprise” with just a hint of sarcasm.
“Screwed,” a counter-intuitively uplifting track which lashes out at President Donald Trump, the patriarchy and generally how messed up the world is, sees Monáe sing a duet about having sex with Zoë Kravitz.
A large portion of the song is just the two performers detailing where they’d like to have sex. It’s not subtle, which is part of what makes it so wonderful.
In “Django Jane,” while proving once again what a spectacular rapper she is, the singer muses that she’s “Jane Bond, never Jane Doe” before boasting that she “made a fandroid out of your girlfriend.”
Fandroids, as you may have guessed, Monáe’s fans.
As with “Screwed,” the whole of “PYNK” is an explicit, loving tribute to women in all their glory.
The lyrics are continually suggestive, with Monáe murmuring about “Pynk, like the tongue that goes down… maybe,” “Pynk, like the lips around your… maybe” and “Pynk beyond forest and thighs.”
She then opens up, confessing: “I don’t wanna hide my love / I just wanna hold your hand and be the one that you think of.
“When you need a holiday, when you wanna drink rosé / I just wanna paint your toes and in the morning kiss your nose.”
Now that’s good queer writing.
This track segues into the funky, Prince-inspired banger “Make Me Feel,” a bona fide bisexual anthem which inspired a video full of Monáe passionately flirting with Thompson – who played Marvel’s first bi superhero last year – before doing the same with a male actor.
“Baby, don’t make me spell it out for you / All of the feelings that I’ve got for you,” she sings, before giving in and doing just that.
“I’m powerful with a little bit of tender – an emotional, sexual bender,” she states proudly.
The singer revels in her sexuality throughout Dirty Computer, but never more so than in “I Got The Juice,” which sees her take it to a whole other level.
“Got juice for all my lovers, got juice for all my wives,” she sings, luxuriating in her queer identity.
She continues: “My juice is my religion, got juice between my thighs / Now, ask the angels, baby, my juice is so divine.”
Once again, she elevates female sexuality and queer sex to a heavenly place.
The next track, “I Like That,” is about how unusual the star is, how she sees herself as a “walking contradiction” – but also how she enjoys being different.
She sings: “Let’s reintroduce ourselves, from a free point of view / If I’m gonna sin, it’s with you / Tattoo your love on my heart, let the rumours be true.”
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She plays with the same theme in “So Afraid,” but with less confidence, admitting her worries about coming out.
The singers confesses: “I’m so afraid / Ah, what if I lose? / Is what I think to myself / I’m fine in my shell / I’m afraid of it all, afraid of loving you.”
Coming out is often a difficult, terrifying process, and having waited until she was 32 to take that step, Monáe’s fear is understandable – and relatable.
In “Americans,” as the star spits quickfire lines about police brutality and the prison-industrial complex, she takes a moment to subvert a complicated symbol of American history.
“Uncle Sam kissed a man,” Monáe sings, turning a powerful representation of the government, the man or the nation, depending on who you ask, into a queer figure in the world Monáe wants everyone to build – one where all people are equal and accepted.
But the singer saves her most moving lines for last.
As the song – the last and perhaps best track of a superb album – comes to a triumphant end, listeners are told: “Until same-gender loving people can be who they are / This is not my America.”
Monáe follows this by ordering the world to “love me baby, love me for who I am” – a line which encapsulates the struggle for equality.