One of the worst things about losing a loved one is the steady stream of awful reminders that they are no longer in your life, that they are no longer available. Some of that comes up front, but when you’re in the thick of things dealing with grief and loss, especially if it’s sudden, you don’t have the perspective nor the capacity to full realize everything you’ve lost.
Case in point: My friend Brian, who the world lost to depression last August, was a constant in my life and one of the few people I’ve met that experience music in the same way I do. I could use abstract concepts or made-up terminology to describe music and it made sense to him. I know he’s gone and it hurts to lose somebody that understands and accepts your personal brand of weird, but what got me lately was something that lingered below the surface until the release of Janelle Monae’s new album, “Dirty Computer,” more specifically, the title track.
The song is an unlikely, but gorgeous collaboration between Monae and the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. Between the peculiar content of the lyrics, the song’s place in a concept album, and the sugary sweet harmonies from Wilson, it absolutely reeks of Brian. I listen to it and I can see it clicking for him as he makes his way through the song. I listen to it and I can see him pulling up blasting the song in his car. I listen to it and I can hear him trying to sing along to the song, failing miserably, and trudging on through it anyway because that’s what he did.
It’s this shit that stings the most, months or years on, when you don’t expect it. Every time I hear this song, I’m in love with it and then it feels like I’m getting stabbed in the heart. I know he’s gone, but I still feel that internal click pushing me to share the song with him every time it comes on. Music can build you up, tear you down, make you smile, and make you cry within the span of minutes.
The rest of the album is worth a listen. In particular, the fierce “Django Jane” featuring a fierce version of Monae that I didn’t know existed, another unlikely but well-done collab with Grimes on “Pynk” that serves as a girl-power celebratory anthem, and she even created a 52-minute movie to accompany the record. But man, the Beach Boys harmony vibes on ‘Dirty Computer’ are addictive.
This Sunday, reach out to people who are close to you, but may have fallen off in recent times. Just say hi and let them know you’re thinking about them. It will go a long way, I promise.
The movie, if you’re interested: