Janelle Monae 'Electric Lady' Review: A Futuristic Sound Tells A Provocative Story
Electric Lady (Suites IV and V) is a continuation of Janelle Monae’s future-pop music heard on her first album The ArchAndroid, which was released three years ago. By sticking to the sound Monae has made herself known for, she strove to avoid the sophomore slump – and indeed avoided it.
While keeping the futuristic tones, Monae jumps from genre to genre, infusing pop, ballad, soul, and jazz tones into the songs that follow her alter-ego, android Cindi Mayweather. A prequel to The ArchAndroid, Electric Lady is intermixed with “radio segments,” in which people call in and discuss Cindi and the rights of androids, that help break up the ambitious album and keep the story straight and moving forward. Without them, the album would be somewhat overwhelming and hard to listen to straight through – with them, the album is an easier listen and demands to be listened to straight through.
Monae had an impressive list of guest singers on the album, including Solange, Prince, Erykah Badu, Miguel, and Esperanza Spalding. With her unique style, Monae easily shone over all of guests, but their added voices succeeded in giving even more variability to the album.
Monae stands out among artists in her genre with her lyrical ability. “Q.U.E.E.N.,” in particular, comes to mind, with verses such as – “Are we a lost generation of our people?/Add us to equations but they'll never make us equal/She who writes the movie owns the script and the sequel/So why ain't the stealing of my rights made illegal?/They keep us underground working hard for the greedy/But when it's time pay they turn around and call us needy.” With thoughtful lyrics such as these throughout the album, Monae makes the listener actually stop to think while still enjoying the music.
Among the most catchy and radio-friendly songs are “Givin Em What They Love (feat. Prince),” “Q.U.E.E.N.,” “Dance Apocalyptic” and “Electric Lady (feat. Solange).” However, most songs are so deeply embedded in the futuristic tones that despite their fun, are destined to remain on the album – the pop, soul and ballad infusions are not enough to make them radio-friendly, and often make them sound like songs that could be out of the ‘80s (see: “Ghetto Woman,” “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes (feat. Esperanza Spalding),” and “PrimeTime (feat. Miguel).”)
Overall, Electric Lady is a strong album that, while at times overwhelming, deserves to be listened to straight through as to better follow the exploits and journey of Cindi. Monae makes you think with smart lyrics, intriguing melodies, and great featured artists. No single song stands out among the rest, making the album a real story-telling experience.
Get the most-revealing celebrity conversations with the uInterview podcast!