It’s Sunday evening and you’re wrapped in a duvet eating a family-size bag of Doritos, rewatching season 2 of Queer Eye with your laptop propped up sideways next you in bed, when you hear a light knock on your door. “Hey, er, can I borrow your computer for a second?” your housemate asks, poking her head around the door. “Mine’s out of charge and I just need to print something quickly.”
Suddenly you’re sweating. “Yeah, erm, just let me… hang on a sec,” you say, fingers fumbling on the track pad as she stands in the doorway. Fuck knows when you last cleared your search history; probably weeks ago. But she’s watching your screen now so you have no choice but to hand it over and follow her to her room, sort of hovering in the background while she fiddles around with the printer cable, trying not to look too panicked as she opens Chrome and types something into the search bar. Could there be anything… bad? I mean, there was that time the other week when you were feeling sad and spent a whole evening googling “afghan hounds in the wind”. Would there be anything, y’know, worse than that?
Maybe, if you were reading literally into the last masterpiece Janelle Monáe made. She knows all about flipping the idea of a virus-ridden hard drive into an exploration of what makes each of us special, as she showed on Dirty Computer, her incredible album released earlier this year. Themes from queerness to race to power and vulnerability coated the record like a holographic gloss. And at its core rested the idea that those supposed flaws—the things that make each of us dirty computers—are the very attributes that validate our unique stories.
If, however, Janelle were to fire up your laptop to see just what kind more salacious dirt it contains, what might she see? To find out, we headed down to her gig at London's Roundhouse in Camden to ask her fans about all the filthy stuff stuff they have knocking around on their laptops.
Noisey: What do you think of Janelle Monáe’s last album, Dirty Computer?
Anusha: I literally had to take a day off. I was like, 'I need to take a moment to sit down,' cause it was not only amazing but also different. We’ve seen her evolve and seen her come into a new era and I can’t wait to see it performed live.
What’s the dirtiest thing on your computer?
Anusha: I definitely have like... audio porn saved somewhere on my computer.
Also known as Janelle Monáe’s last album amirite?
Anusha: Exactly. But yeah I have a cheeky voice note from somebody saved somewhere. But it’s from a long time ago, when I was like 18. I wouldn’t do that now.
Lavine: *Laughs* Yeah, I’m not telling you mine.
“My porn history”
Noisey: Hi people who I’ve just met. What’s the dirtiest thing on your computer?
Kristi: My history.
Mitchell: Yeah, probably my search history.
Kristi: I don’t have any pictures or anything.
Mitchell: I dunno, there might be a picture somewhere that I’ve saved on my computer. But not online. You’ve got to be careful haven’t you.
Would you be scared to let somebody use your computer in case they find something suspect?
Mitchell: People use my laptop all the time and it definitely has my porn history right there. But I kind of don’t care cos if they see it... they’re the one who’s been looking! And maybe that’s actually worse. So yeah, I don’t care!
“A folder full of dog memes”
Noisey: Hey. Do you have anything particularly dirty on your computer?
Sam: A folder full of dog memes probably? There’s some pretty spicy ones in there.
Sam: No, no, it’s all wholesome content really. Just some good boys.
So you wouldn’t be nervous if somebody asked to borrow your laptop?
Sam: Ok, probably yeah I mean... it’s a weird thing to think about but I do kind of worry about what would happen if I died. Like, who gets access to your phone and computer?
Rachel: Yeah I think my dying words would be “please, delete my history. It’s for the best.”
I think that’s actually what Winston Churchill’s dying words were, right?
Rachel: Probably yeah. Something like that.
Noisey: What’s the dirtiest thing on your computer, Karen?
Karen: I don’t have a computer!
That’s a good way of evading the question. If you did have a computer, what would be the dirtiest thing on it?
It would just be dick pics.
Lots of them?
Mmmm maybe but all the same one. Just loads of the same photo.
Aww, that’s so sweet.
“Some illegally downloaded albums”
Noisey: What’s the dirtiest thing you’ve got on your computer?
Chanté: I honestly haven’t got anything proper dirty on there, apart from... illegal music?
As a music publication we have to say that’s pretty fucking dirty to be honest.
Yeah, I’m ashamed.
What kinda stuff?
You’re gonna be mad. Radio rips, mixes. Some illegally downloaded albums... all of it.
Disgraceful. What about the actual computer itself?
I’m a germaphobe so my laptop is actually very clean. Everything is cleaned with antiseptic wipes, no eating near it. None of that. I don’t want no crumbs in the keyboard.
Noisey: Tell me what dirty stuff you’ve got on your computer.
Fran: Erm... probably puke. I’ve got a baby and she’s disgusting.
And she’s puked on your computer?
Fran: Yeah, or snotted on it or something, for sure.
That’s a very good way of getting round the question.
Fran: Yeah that’s what I thought!
Polly: Mine’s actually brand new, I literally bought it yesterday so it’s squeaky clean!
What about your old computer?
Polly: Nothing! I’m an angel! There’d never be anything dirty on my computer!
Would your search history tell a different story?
How excited are you to see Dirty Computer live?
Tanya: Really excited! I’ve always been a fan but I’ve become more of a fan of her recently. This new album made me get into her more and listen to more of her back catalogue.
Lucine: I'm so excited, I’ve never seen her live before.
Great! I actually just wanna know what the dirtiest thing on your computer is though.
Lucine: Sometimes me and my female friends like how we look so much that we just pretend that we’re witches and just dance around naked and take naked pictures of ourselves so... yeah. Very Janelle Monáe.
I feel like she’d think that was cool.
Lucine: It’s not dirty, though! It’s just not something I’d let the world see.
Tanya: I truly don’t have anything dirty on my computer, but now I feel kind of left out.
I think that’s probably bullshit, but I’m gonna let you get away with it this time.
Tanya: Yeah, her answer was probably sufficient right?
It’ll probably do, yeah.
You can follow Rosie on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.