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What we’re jamming to today

What we’re jamming to today

It’s Labor Day, a holiday dedicated to the proletariat, a.k.a. the manual laborers and wage earners whose often back-breaking work somehow keeps the world going. May the celebration of what you do someday ceases to be mere lip service and becomes concrete financial remuneration.

As for me, on a day when I’m supposed to be able to shrug off some work responsibilities and would rather not deal with the ticket lines at the movie house [eye roll], there’s always music to turn to. Here are the latest additions to my playlist:


After releasing music videos for three cuts from her latest album, Janelle Monáe finally dropped Dirty Computer in full just before the weekend, complete with an accompanying “emotion picture” film. The best part? The director’s cut is up in YouTube for everyone to enjoy for free. Watch it below:

The 44-minute video, produced by Monáe and directed by Andrew Donoho and Chuck Lightning, serves lewk upon lewk and visual upon visual, and also features collaborations with video directors Alan Ferguson, Emma Westenberg, and Lacey Duke. Actress Tessa Thompson (Creed, Thor: Ragnarok) co-stars with Monáe.

Consequence of Sound describes Dirty Computer‘s story as “[taking] place in a dystopian future where people are referred to as ‘computers’ and anyone different from the elite is labeled ‘dirty.’ Jane 57821, played by Monáe, is taken in for ‘cleaning,’ but refuses to give herself over to those in charge. Instead, they activate the Nevermind, allowing them full access to Jane’s memories, which play out like a series of loosely interconnected music videos.”

The full-bodied universe presented in the film complements the equally exciting array of sounds that Dirty Computer offers, thanks to Monáe’s boundary-pushing vision and the collaborators she had selected to create music with, from Stevie Wonder and the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson to Grimes, Pharrell, and Kendrick Lamar. The result? An album that you can bop to from beginning to end and will co-sign its general message of personal, sexual, and political freedom.

Rolling Stone’s latest issue, in which Janelle Monáe opens up about her sexuality. Image from Rolling Stone.

Monáe has stated how her new album is her most personal work yet, hence her reticence to create it; it has been five years since her previous record Electric Lady was released. But with Dirty Computer‘s roll-out in the past couple of months, the artist, who had deflected personal questions in the past, seems to open up more. As if winking to the rumors on her supposed relationship with Thompson, Monáe got the actress to be play her romantic interest in the “Make Me Feel” and “Pynk” videos. Then just before Dirty Computer dropped, Rolling Stone publishes online its cover story on Monáe, in which she comes out as pansexual:

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“‘Being a queer black woman in America,’ she says, taking a breath as she comes out, ‘someone who has been in relationships with both men and women – I consider myself to be a free-ass motherfucker.’ She initially identified as bisexual, she clarifies, ‘but then later I read about pansexuality and was like, ‘Oh, these are things that I identify with too.’ I’m open to learning more about who I am.'”



Perfect for these balmy days and nights is the groovy funk of The Internet’s latest single that I hope is just the prelude to the impending arrival of a full-length album. Ego Death, released in 2015, had everyone getting used to Syd’s cool vocals in the lead, but this new roll-out has Steve Lacy front and center, his smooth-as-molasses voice floating over that oh-so-dancable bass line. Southern California funk and roller disco are two genres that have been used to describe “Roll’s” irresistably laid-back appeal, and I say, “Sure.”

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