With her second full length album finally released, The Electric Lady, we see Janelle Monáe continuing with her android Cindi Mayweather concept, that had helped her become a musical powerhouse. This is the 4th and 5th Suite of her concept album.
Ms. Monáe has been on my radar for years now. The first time I heard her EP The Audition and then her “official” EP Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), I was blown away by her voice.
Her whole concept is loosely based on the 1920’s film Metropolis, was different and interesting. With heavy influences from Afrofuturism and science fiction, there wasn’t a sound like this happening in mainstream R&B. She excited me, but part of me felt like she wasn’t going to crack into the Top 40 Pop scene. Three years later, Monáe’s debut album appeared. The ArchAndroid was her follow-up to her first EP. It still continued with her android concept, as the 2nd and 3rd Suites.
From there her music exploded. You couldn’t get away from her. Performances at The Grammy’s. Becoming a Covergirl. Becoming a fashion ‘it’ girl because of her “uniform” of black and white tuxedos and Pompadour hairstyle. Hit songs with bands like Fun. 2007 me wouldn’t believe this would be happening, but I was sure glad for her success.
This summer can be nicknamed the “Summer of Reminiscence”. Two of the most popular songs of the summer of 2013 had hints of this retro 70s feel.
With Get Lucky by Daft Punk ft. Pharrell, even down to the minimalist music video screams a throwback to the era of disco. Then there was Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke ft. Pharrell and T.I, minus all the controversy of the song (from the anti-feminist lyrics and video to the alleged ripping off of Marvin Gaye), we can all admit the song has a certain disco-esque feel to it. Maybe Pharrell is the one to thank?
There have been countless other acts that came out with music this year with the same feel. Artists like Empire of the Sun, Justin Timberlake, and even Bruno Mar’s single Treasure, all remind me of a decade long before me.
So The Electric Lady coming out at the end of the summer seems like the perfect ending to a funky summer.
An eccentric musical landscape, The Electric Lady combines the futuristic sounds of Cindi Mayweather’s fight for survival in a apocalyptic time, while reminiscing of the Motown-esque sounds of the past.
Musically, this album pulls from many different inspirations. Also having many heavy hitters on her album also bridge together many of these themes. The Jazz of Esperanza Spalding, the funkadelica sounds of Prince, the soul of Erykah Badu, and neo-soul pop of Solange and Miguel, meshes together musical melting pot.
She also works with the band Deep Cotton again, who help produced her album.
The songs where Monáe’s voice really shines, is what makes this a great record. Don’t get me wrong, songs like “Dance Apocalyptic” or “Givin Em What They Love” make me want to get up and dance like the badass rocker I like to pretend that I am. Janelle Monáe gives 5ft girls like myself the confidence to act like we’re 6ft tall. Check out her recent performance on The David Letterman show where she rocks the funk out:
“Electric Lady” (featuring Solange)
“Givin Em What They Love” (featuring Prince)
“Dorothy Dandridge Eyes” (featuring Esperanza Spalding)
“Can’t Live Without Your Love”
“PrimeTime” (featuring Miguel)
Overall, this has been one of my favorite records to come out this year. It’s nice to see an artist you’ve been following for a few years now grow into this mega star, without completely selling out creatively.
What makes her special for weird black girls all over the world, is that she is apologetically making art. She doesn’t fall along one label. She’s fun. She’s fireceless. She’s funky. She is the goddesses of weird black girl coo.