New York Times Magazine staff writer Jenna Wortham profiles singer, songwriter, and actress Janelle Monáe before the launch of “Dirty Computer,” the artist’s first new full-length album in five years. The album has been much anticipated — Monáe has chosen to forego use of her alter-ego, android Cindi Mayweather, and sing as herself; Prince weighed in on tracks early on in the recording process; and supporting visuals hint at a new openness in celebrating a queer femme aesthetic and sexuality. Wortham’s piece considers whether the new music delivers, and the careful tightrope walk that black women in the public eye must perfect.

Most popular music is so determinedly centered on heterosexual dynamics that any hint of same-sex interactions can feel revelatory, even radical, upon the first encounter. That’s the way it felt to me when I first watched [Janelle] Monáe’s film. The queer sexual interactions are refreshingly explicit — miming…

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