Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Electric Lady | Janelle Monáe


Three years after her debut, Janelle Monáe has stormed back on the scene with her two-disc sophomore follow-up to The ArchAndroid. The Electric Lady acts as the fourth and fifth parts to her planned seven-suite Metropolis concept. 

Wikipedia says that this album "incorporates influences of hip hop, soul, funk, gospel, jazz and rock." I think this sums up The Electric Lady perfectly; it's got a wide variety of sounds. However, as most of my readers know, I don't usually touch on any of those genres, so this is a brand new reviewing experience for me! I surely hope that I've done the job justice, although this is a relatively short review.

For "Give Em What They Love," Monáe calls in the help of musical heavyweight Prince, in which the two slide through some harmonies while smoothing sliding the song's title in lyric form. And then in "Q.U.E.E.N." Monáe brings out a funky electronic sound with some older jazz elements added in. That sound eventually fades towards the end of the song to a primarily jazz sound as a guest vocalist does a rap outro.

The most radio-friendly track on the album is "Dance Apocalyptic," which uses a fast-paced jazz sound to create an infection track with carefree lyrics like "If the world says it's time to go / Tell me, will you freak out? / Smash, smash, bang, bang / Don't stop / Cha-lang-a-lang-a-lang!" Eventually the song spirals into a short hip-hop inspired outro with a strange alien voice (which I think is supposed to represent Monáe's alter-ego, "Android") rambling some nonsense: "What's the matter? / Your chicken tastes like pork? / You have triplets instead of twins? / Is your food taste plastic?"

"Ghetto Woman" is a smooth, chilled funk track with some eighties inspirations mixed in. The song maintains this sound for a while, until the breaks into a rapped verse about her mother who gave birth to her as a teen: "When I was just a baby my momma dropped out of school / It was only second semester the baby due / The doctor said 'December the first your due date.'" From what I've gathered, the song also combats racism and prejudice: "When you doubt if you’re a star, just know we still believe / Carry on, ghetto woman / Even when the news portrays you less than you could be / I wish they could just realize / All you ever needed was someone to free your mind."

If you're a fan of jazz or soul, this album is for you. Monáe put a tremendous amount of work into The Electric Lady and it definitely shows. This being said, it's really not in my taste. Some of the songs are on par with my normally pop, indie, and dance tastes, but a lot of the album hits with a funk-packed punch. Taking myself out of that mindset and giving the album an unbias review, I threw three stars to it. It seems like a decent piece of work in my eyes.

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