R&B’s designated “weirdo” Janelle Monae returns to music with “The Electric Lady” (Atlantic/Bad Boy) an eclectic follow up to 2010′s “The ArchAndroid.” The 19-track album is robust with Monae’s love for all things sci-fi and continues the story of her alter ego Cindi Mayweather, an Android that fell in love with a human, and is now on the run and in danger of being dissembled. Yeah, I know, that’s a lot of jammin, but stay with me.
The interludes from DJ Crash Crash (the only person Monae follows on Twitter) helps sew together the world Monae creates for listeners. Not only are we submerged in the android and robotic realm of which Mayweather resides, but topics such as feminism, growing up in the hood and love are all touched on Monae’s sophomore effort.
The opening track on the album “Suite IV Electric Overture,” is the musical epitome of Mayweather’s life on the run. It sounds less like rhythm and blues and more like background music during a chase scene in a James Bond film. Draped with violins, horns, a steady surf guitar and thunderous drums, Monae sonically warns listeners Mayweather’s life is in danger.
While “Suite IV Electric Overture” prepared listeners for Cindi’s fugitive life “Give ‘Em What They Love (Feat. Prince)” helped to solidify’s Monae’s defiant sense of self. Janelle makes a personal declaration on the first verse boldly letting anyone know if she has to die because of who she is, she’s not afraid. The song is taken to heights of musical perfection with Prince’s perfect falsetto, his alluring strumming of the guitar and faint wails. He rocks out with a guitar solo accompanied by triumphant horns. But the song’s most cryptic line comes at the very end.
When they walked in the room we didn’t know what to do/One looked at me/And I looked back/She said can you tell me where the party’s at/She followed me back to the lobby/Yeah she was looking at me for some undercover love.
Monae segue ways into the girl-power anthem “Q.U.E.E.N” But its the album’s title track “Electric Lady” that gives it a foundation. Featuring her homegirl Solange, the uptempo track describes a woman of class and sophistication. Borrowing from R&B’s golden years, the smooth song has an early 90s feel. With sweet woo-ooo’s from Solo, Monae makes us all wish we had the kind of allure an electric lady.
Janelle takes a break from her music to introduce listeners to DJ Crash Crash of 105.5 WDRD. The first of three interludes brings listeners to the fictitious radio station where Crash Crash encourages callers to “Power Up” in support of the “Droid Rebel Alliance” as well as Cindi Mayweather.
Monae returns with the sensual Miguel assisted track ”Primetime” On the sultry song, Monae reveals a vulnerable side of herself while telling Miguel she doesn’t want to be mysterious with him tonight. The singer/songwriter begins to loose her musical balance with tracks like “We Were Rock & Roll” “It’s Code” and “Dance Apocalyptic” but regains her composure with the funkadelic dance record “Ghetto Woman.” The track doubles as a song of praise to all women in the hood and a personal love letter to her janitorial mother.
Sixteen songs into a 19-track album, my ears struck gold with the easy snap-worthy track “Can’t Live Without Your Love.” The light drum and an upright bass help Monae to sing with passion of being unable to eat or breathe without his love. While it isn’t a ballad its still two-step worthy. Elements from The Jackson 5 are also peppered into the song to give it a bit of funk and soul. Janelle raspy alto give the song heart and depth.
Janelle rounds out her ambitious sophomore album with “What An Experience.” in which Monae sings of the grand love she’s experienced.
While Monae delivers a conceptually ambitious album, she often looses her footing 9 tracks into a 19 track album. Yet, the stylish fem bot still helped solidify herself as the daring chanteuse who isn’t afraid to step outside of the proverbial box, but in Monae’s case, outside of our dull human world
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