Turns out those two songs Janelle Monae dropped in late February as a precursor to her upcoming album Dirty Computer were only the preview to the preview. To further immerse fans in her current state of mind and emotion, she’ll debut a short film titled Dirty Computer: An Emotion Picture by Janelle Monae, exclusively on MTV and BET channels worldwide on April 26 — the day before the album’s release.
“I’m always trying to expand out from the stereo speakers and tell stories visually and in different ways. So I set out to make an emotion picture, a narrative visual experience that could accompany my album,” Monae, who recently starred in Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures, tells Billboard.
The 44-minute treatment features both a barrage of electrifying music videos, and a chilling storyline.
It’s been five years since Monae released a solo studio album, and her latest visual and aural offerings are teeming with raw, emotional commentary certain to surprise those who thought they had her figured out.
“Dirty Computer is a near-future story about a citizen who finds love and danger in a totalitarian society. She’s an outlaw because she’s being herself,” she says. “Overall, I wanted to reflect what’s happening in the streets right now, and what might happen tomorrow if we don’t band together and fight for love.”
Monae in February teased the album with the release of two tracks — funky, ‘80s-vibe “Make Me Feel” and emboldened, rap-infused anthem “Django Jane” — both accompanied by powerful visual statements. Expect all that and more on the new film (watch a teaser below).
Starring Monae and Tessa Thompson, who appeared in Thor, Selma and Westworld, Dirty Computer: An Emotion Picture conveys the story of a young woman named Jane 57821 (Monae) who is living in a totalitarian near-future society where citizens are referred to as “computers.” The narrative explores humanity and the effect on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness when mind and machines merge, and when the government chooses fear over freedom.
“I’ve been inspired by the people that came before me, the artists who pushed the limits of where music can go and how it can be represented visually,” Monae says.
The film will premiere on networks including MTV, MTV2, MTV Live, mtvU, BET, BET Jams, BET Soul and BET Her 24 hours before the album drops April 27. The only glimpse the public has gotten of it is via a teaser that premiered ahead of screenings of Marvel’s film Black Panther.
“This was a great opportunity for us to showcase a stunning piece of art, created by a truly visionary artist, across multiple Viacom platforms,” Bruce Gillmer, global head of music/talent and co-brand lead for MTV International, tells Billboard. “After screening Janelle’s Dirty Computer, our team became very excited about the prospect of premiering the film on both BET and MTV globally.”
Watch the trailer below.