Album Review: Janelle Monae – Electric Lady

Electric Lady is Janelle Monae’s second studio album, released on September 10th by Wondaland Arts Society and Bad Boy Records. The album is a follow up to her EP Metropolis, and her first studio album The ArchAndroid. The whole concept revolves around a futuristic, feisty lady who could be electric because she of her sass, or because she’s an android.

 

Janelle Monae, famous for her signature hair style and tuxedo, picks up on classic styles with modern lyrics. The album starts with a jazzy overture that reminded me of Metropolis, the sci-fi film from 1927. This sets the tone for “Givin Em What They Love” featuring Prince. The sci-fi mood is continued and later blended into rock and roll, with some jazz and R&B thrown in as well. His falsetto tone creates a contrasting, yet beautiful harmony with Janelle’s clear, precise voice. The rock and roll then gets tamed with a string ensemble closing.

 

Q.U.E.E.N.” with Erykah Badu is a strong and funky, “I-am-who-I-am” song. She is proud of being fierce and rebellious. She mentions current pop culture references, like “twerking” and “throwing shade”, but what is most empowering is her hope for future in terms of  social improvement in her concluding rap, which leads into the title track “Electric Lady”. It features Solange, and has a similar message to “Q.U.E.E.N.” but with a little less rebellion. It’s a fun going out song that complements Solange’s hipster style and Janelle’s funky edge.

 

All tracks blend seamlessly together into a story with help by interludes from DJ Crash Crash in an ultramodern Motown style radio show. Every time, it foreshadows the upcoming theme or mood of the next track; they are placed very well in between the right songs.

 

Other featured performers on the album include Miguel in “Primetime” and Esperanza Spalding in “Dorothy Dandridge”. Miguel is perfect for “Primetime” because his voice was made for singing love songs. “Dorothy Dandridge” is a flirty, seductive song featuring Esperanza Spalding, the Beyonce of jazz. Janelle Monae is spot on with all the featured artists she chose for her album. Prince is from the 70’s, Erykah Badu from the 90’s, and everyone else is from the present, and it really helps that they have knowledge of the genre they are portraying. Janelle Monae creates a unique sound by combining sounds from the past and futuristic sci-fi elements into each track. The way she is able to transition from jazz, R&B, rock and roll, and funk is very impressive and no shift is ever jarring. Janelle Monae is truly unique as an artist today and Electric Lady should be heard by musicians of all genres as an inspiration.

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