Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady
Release Date: 10 September 2013
Label: Bad Boy Records
- Suite IV Electric Overture
- Givin Em What They Love (ft. Prince)
- Q.U.E.E.N. (ft. Erykah Badu) [MV]
- Electric Lady (ft. Solange Knowles)
- Good Morning Midnight (Interlude)
- Primetime (ft. Miguel) [MV]
- We Were Rock & Roll
- The Chrome Shoppe (Interlude)
- Dance Apocalyptic [MV]
- Look Into My Eyes
- Suite V Electric Overture
- It’s Code
- Ghetto Woman
- Our Favorite Fugitive (Interlude)
- Can’t Live Without Your Love
- Sally Ride
- Dorothy Dandridge Eyes (ft. Esperanza Spalding)
- What An Experience
There aren’t enough words to accurately describe what happened to me the first time I heard Janelle Monae. A sonic boom? An interspatial collapse? A stage-4 critical event? Since 2007’s Lettin Go, I’ve been entranced with her pure vocal and infinite profundity. With her latest offering, Monae brings every ounce of that boldness and fire.
The Electric Lady is an adventure and education, a 25th century post-apocalyptic fairytale. The androids are an ethnic group both socially oppressed and openly expressive, and their enigmatic spokesperson, Cyndi Mayweather, brings them songs of freedom and uplifting. The music is familiar, influenced by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Nancy Sinatra, Sly and the Family Stone, Smokey Robinson, LTD, and the Ronettes. But around the edges is a metallic ting, an almost alien undercurrent that transforms her genres of interest into nuanced and unexpected artistic expressions.
Using the conceit of the android to paint a picture of an oppressed “other” is intelligent. To get her message across, she does exactly what those who oppress the disenfranchised have done since the beginning of time: literally dehumanizes them. Thus The Electric Lady paints oppression in metallic silver and blue to force the stark truth: at the very core of everything, every life form is filled with music, color, and the need to give and receive love.
With The Electric Lady, Monae dances in the endless space and potential energy of music. It’s more than just a brilliantly rendered album. It’s direct and literal: a collection of sounds bent into patterns and shapes that put the abstract ideas of beauty, love, and perfection into concrete images. She’s a generous and intelligent artist. She uses The Electric Lady as a means to explore the pages of her encyclopedic knowledge of music, exposing the roots of her electric current, then expanding on the foundation to build a world full of light and astounding form.
The collaborations on The Electric Lady are brilliant, but they don’t overpower the album’s overall spirit. Monae crafts chemistry with whomever she works with, giving the listener timeless grooves and rhythms that set a standard of class and quality mainstream radio is slowly starting to reclaim. What’s so beautiful about each appearance is just how natural the sound is. Seamless to the point of seeming like each artist is a part of her menagerie, each beautiful and brilliantly shining, meshing perfectly with the bold singer.
From songs full of guttural funk (Q.U.E.E.N., Givin Em What They Love) to those rich in emotional magnanimity (Primetime, It’s Code, Dorothy Dandridge Eyes) and pure celebrations of life and its grandeur (Ghetto Woman, What an Experience), The Electric Lady uses a variety of genres and soundscapes in a way that’s both effectively emotional and glisteningly intelligent.
Janelle Monae is what would happen if a mad scientist resurrected Tammi Tarrell and fed her a diet of funk and electricity. She’s got the same simple beauty in her voice and all the poise and class of the late Motown vocalist. The Electric Lady is smooth, powerful, and brilliant music that defies categorization. This is surely what Hendrix must have envisioned when he fantasized about walking the streets of Electric Ladyland.