I actually did not know that the actress, Janelle Monae, whom I have been watching in those Oscar-nominated movies Moonlight and Hidden Figures was already an established singer with two studio albums (The ArchAndroid and The Electric Lady) under her belt, at that point in her career. As an actress, she is just a joy to watch and I am in love with her! She radiates this warmth in Moonlight and this ‘don’t bullshit me’ persona in Hidden Figures, that even if her roles in those two films were just supporting ones, her performances clearly shone and stood out – bringing so much to the respective movies. I only heard that she was a singer, when the Recording Academy feted her album Dirty Computer with a coveted Album of the Year nomination. I went “What? She’s actually a singer?” I was really surprised and what added more interest is that it’s so hard to get a Grammy Album of the Year nomination, so if she got one, this album must really be good – considering that she’s black, she’s a woman, and she doesn’t really have huge hits to broadcast her presence – unlike some of her actress/singer peers (Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson). Funny thing is I only knew Childish Gambino and Kacey Musgraves and a little of The Black Panther album among that year’s nominees. Anyway, it was a good surprise and I immediately got myself a copy of the album. After listening to it, I couldn’t agree more with the voters of the Recording Academy! What I heard was music of sheer pure bliss, of a mature, headstrong, self-assured woman who knew who she is and is ready to take on any challenge in the world. After listening to all the nominees for Grammy Album of the Year, when my fellow critic friends and I made a mock vote for that category, I gave my vote to Janelle’s album. It was really a toss-up between Kacey’s and hers but since I could hear traces of Prince in this album (I learned later why!), and I loved seeing a confident woman navigate the territories of sex and power and gender identity in a headstrong manner, my vote went to Dirty Computer – and even with her loss (to Kacey Musgraves at the actual Grammys), at least the Recording Academy reminded me that there are artists out there who have bold ideas and although I feel that she is unburdening but still keeping vulnerable parts of herself away from public view, I don’t really mind it. We don’t need to see a full confessional in just one album. Giving tidbits of it away is much better since people change as they become older, more mature, and less reckless.