It’s been nearly five long years since Janelle Monáe invited us back into the magical neon wonderland she’s dreaming up with her previous musical work, but the wait is finally over. Dirty Computer, her third album, is about to drop—and it’s coming with a 50-minute-long scifi film in tow.
Though Monáe’s musical styles range from lush opera to trippy rockabilly, one of the major throughlines across much of her work is the ongoing story of Cindi Mayweather, the time-displaced android messiah from a far-flung future where her kind are oppressed. Cindi and her quest for android liberation are a large part of what made Monáe’s early work so fascinating, but in a new profile from The New York Times, the artist explained that Dirty Computer is set to mark a major shift for the larger narrative she’s telling. Cindi Mayweather, Monáe said, was a packaged version of the artist that the public came to see as being reflective of her identity, despite that not entirely being the case:
“I knew I needed to make this album, and I put it off and put it off because the subject is Janelle Monáe. I couldn’t fake being vulnerable. In terms of how I will be remembered, I have anxiety around that, like the whole concept about what I’ll be remembered for.”
While Dirty Computer is reason enough to get excited all on its own, Monáe is releasing a nearly hour-long “emotion picture” that will begin a new story about a woman on the run from an authoritarian government in a dystopian future, where people labeled “deviants” have their memories forcibly removed. The woman, played by Monáe, sets out on a journey to find her love interest (played by Tessa Thompson) and each music video included in the film represents one of the missing memories.
The accompanying emotion picture to “Dirty Computer” is definitely the sort of art one imagines Monáe’s been sitting with and honing for years now, and what makes it so exciting is that it’s dropping as a single cohesive story all at once—a shift from her previous visual works were usually spread relatively far apart.
From the buzz surrounding it, it sounds as if Dirty Computer is a major milestone in Monáe’s evolution as an artist and she’s inviting everyone to witness it firsthand.
Dirty Computer drops April 27.
UPDATE: Variety’s now reporting that the “Dirty Computer” short film is set to premiere on both BET and MTV on April 26. Mark your calendars, people.