Review: Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady
Published on September 10th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Fresh from dominating last week’s singles column, Janelle Monáe gets all ‘second album’ in our faces with veritable pop odyssey The Electric Lady.
According to Monáe, The Electric Lady aims to be a “soundtrack for the Obama era, something that spoke to the beautiful, majestic and revolutionary times that we’re living in.” D’oh…can’t have it all, then.
We say that because The Electric Lady is sodding tremendous. Having already waxed lyrical about “Dance Apocalyptic”, let us now tell you about some of the other delights that await you on this The Love Below-reminding-of adventure playground of sound.
Why, there’s also the swaggering, Prince-featuring “Givin’ Em What They Love”, the WHUMP!-ing beat of which underpins beaming sunny rays of sweetly dissonant harmonies, not to mention an expertly judged vocal performance from Monáe, full-throttle only when it needs to be.
From featuring Prince to reproducing the swirling zaps of ’80s synth you might associate with him, “Q.U.E.E.N.” – featuring Erykah Badu, no less – asks “Is it peculiar that she twerk in the mirror?” before breaking out into a string-swept rap that declares, in no uncertain terms, that “the booty don’t lie”.
Monáe’s rapping style may be fairly limited, nay laid out in much the same flow whenever it appears, but good on her for trying at least. Plus, any perceived shortcomings are resoundingly countered by such triumphs as the classic Bond theme exotica of “Look Into My Eyes” and sublimely sophisticated melodic progressions of “Victory”.
Also featuring Solange on its title track and Miguel on “Primetime”, The Electric Lady is the kind of ambitious record that Justin Timberlake was clearly attempting with The 20/20 Experience but didn’t have enough character to pull off. Fortunately, Monáe has it in spades, and there’s songwriting to match.
“It’s Code” and “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes”, for instance, could be lost Stevie Wonder classics. There’s variety too – “Ghetto Woman” is particularly frenetic – but also recurring motifs such as the outbreaks of wailing guitar and the ‘radio skit’ links between tracks.
Basically, it would be an absolute joke if the Timberlake and Jay-Z albums – to name but two – wind up getting more praise and/or accolades than this genuine attempt at rounding up the past into something new.
The Electric Lady is out now on Bad Boy Records.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!