Janelle Monáe's new album, Dirty Computer, was released Friday, and the collection of songs, which feature artists like Brian Wilson and Pharrell Williams, evokes the spirit of a musician whose name is not on the track listing. It's clear that Prince had a significant influence on Monáe's new album, both musically and as a source of creative counsel.
The late singer-songwriter was a good friend and mentor to Monáe, and according to Rolling Stone, helped guide her while she was writing and recording Dirty Computer. "When Prince heard this particular direction, he was like, 'That's what y'all need to be doing,'" Monáe's co-producer Chuck Lightning told the magazine in an article published Thursday. "He picked out that sound as what was resonating with him."
Monáe told BBC Radio 1 in February that the "Little Red Corvette" superstar had been helping her determine the sound of the record before he passed away in 2016. She took a five-year break between albums after releasing her second, The Electric Lady in 2013, which featured Prince on the track "Givin' Em What They Love." In an interview with the New York Times Magazine, published on April 19, Monáe said his death was part of the reason for that hiatus. She told the publication,
"This was the person that I would literally call and talk to about sounds or: ‘How should I say this? Is this saying too much?’ I just never could imagine a time where I couldn’t pick up the phone or email him, and he’d contact me right back and we’d talk about all these things that I was unsure of."
Upon its release, fans immediately took note online of Prince's apparent impact on the LP.
@r0ykun tweeted at the singer and wrote, "I just finished listening to Dirty Computer and I am SHAKING. Prince would be so proud of you, this is legendary, and what music needs this very moment. Congrats queen," with a purple heart emoji, while @thepaperframes said,
"If there is any artist out there that can carry the torch of Prince's artistry, Dirty Computer proves it is Janelle Monáe. You can hear his influences along w/ a sound that is uniquely hers. This is beautiful."
@KathleenKanne also wrote, "Dirty Computer has me so shook I can’t even talk about it. I’m speechless Janelle saved music, she saved America, she saved women, she brought Prince back," with a series of emojis, including flames and hearts.
Other users pointed out specific songs that seemed directly inspired by Prince's sound, like the exultant funk of "Make Me Feel," which drew comparisons to his hit song, "Kiss," and the rhythmic synth-pop of "Screwed," which features vocals from Zoë Kravitz.
A fan also shared what appears to be an excerpt from the album's liner notes, in which Monáe expresses her gratitude to Prince and says how much she misses him. (Bustle has reached out to Monáe's team to verify this, but did not receive an immediate response.) Per the screenshot shared by @on_the_one, Monáe wrote:
"Lastly, Prince without you there would be no me . . . We miss you deeply. Thank you for always believing in me. Thank you for always wanting to give me a helping hand. Thank you for our paisley jam sessions and 5 hour talks. Eye'm sorry eye'm swearing so much. Eye'll put money in the swear jar when we meet again. Your spirit will never leave me or us. And eye'll honor you always. Eye am thankful you stayed with us throughout this process as a guiding light. Until next time..."