Janelle Monae “The Electric Lady” Review: A Worthy Title

(Photo credit: www.billboard.com)

Janelle Monae’s groovy and commanding second album further cements her as a modern R&B legend.

Although the album has a phenomenal structure, its placement is surely not the reason why “Givin Em What They Love” stands as the album’s first real song. On only her second album, Monae scored a guest spot from one of the biggest names in pop R&B music history: Prince. And starting an album with a guest spot from Prince delivers a commanding message: Monae is a force to be reckoned with. Indeed, this album proves that, with a number of great and varied tracks, some very high-energy.

The album’s 19 tracks is a little deceiving, because it is structured in a way that has two different sets of interludes. One storyline is two instrumental tracks, the opener “Suite IV Electric Overture,” and its catchy and energetic sequel ten songs later. The other storyline comes in the form of three interludes, tracks 5, 8 and 14, following a radio DJ taking callers on various, futuristic discussions of sex. These interludes, though mostly coming too early, provide nice breaks from the standard R&B tracks, and help balance the basis for the album’s futuristic and provocative nature.

There’s no one thing to focus on when listening to this album. It’s easy to ignore the lyrics and get lost in the music, and vice versa. This might actually be a balance issue, as the the album is meant to be listened to as one whole package. But every aspect is great individually – Monae’s voice is sharp and strong, as are the guest spots from Prince, Erykah Badu, Miguel, Solange and Esperanza Spalding. Musically, the tracks find just right points to switch tempos. The ballads are powerful, as are the quick and club-ready songs. The album has an hour-plus length, but is perhaps the only lengthy album this year not to get too bogged down in ideas (only Wale’s “The Gifted” comes to mind). And Monae’s lyrics are both personal and threatening, the combination of which ask for the rightful praise she is receiving. Monae is a new force, an although “The Electric Lady” goes on for just a bit too long, it is a full combination of working parts and a largely memorable album.

Grade: B+

-By Andrew McNally

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