Janelle Monae debuts as ‘Electric Lady’

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Janelle Monae has released her second studio album this week on Sept. 10.

Janelle Monae is one of the few artists of our generation who understands that music is art, and musicians are artists. They usually embody every aspect of the story they paint in their songs, and Monae does this perfectly in her sophomore album entitled Electric Lady.
The first song on the album, “Suite IV Electric Overture,” sets the scene for the album with its jazzy and bluesy vibes. This song also prepared listeners for what I am sure will be referred to as Monae’s best collaborations to date, “Givin Em What They Love” featuring Prince. Prince is so much of a legend that he almost outshines Monae’s vocals on the track with his groovy funkadelic chords on the guitar, but she holds her own incredibly well on the track.

This groovy jam session touched off a firestorm of future groovy jams to come especially with her collaboration named “Q.U.E.E.N” with Erykah Badu, another soul heavyweight. “Q.U.E.E.N,” is another one of the many funky get up and groove songs on the album. During the song she speaks of the hate she gets from her detractors but ultimately refuses to accept their opinions of her.

The title track on the album “Electric Lady,” builds off of the sentiments Monae expresses in “Q.U.E.E.N” and takes being a confident fun, eclectic woman to another level. With the help of Solange Knowles, Monae perfectly conveys electric ladies as being fun, classy and sassy movers and shakers of the world. There are several radio style interludes such as “The Chrome Shoppe,” “Our Favorite Fugitive” and “Good Night Midnight,” which help to keep the listeners engaged as the album simultaneously transcends various styles, eras and moods.
Monae continues to build on the genius of her theme of self acceptance and love in with “Dance Apocalytic,” which makes you want to dance wherever you are. The album takes more of a romantic turn with the sexy and sensual ballad called “Primetime,” featuring Miguel, who is known for creating simple but powerful soul ballads. The song is one of the best on the album.

With every artist – particularly R&B singers – it would be rare for them not to have ballads about lost love, and “It’s Code” and “We Were Rock N Roll” doesn’t disappoint in this area. Though they are typical melancholy love songs, you can feel the extent of Monae’s pain in every lyric of these songs. These songs, and a few others, didn’t catch my attention, especially, “Look into My Eyes,” which has a 1940s drive-in movie theater feel. However, her song “Ghetto Woman” did because she refers to one of the themes on the album – struggle and embracing who you are.

Monae gets the most personal about her family and her roots on this track not by singing, but by rapping about how women can amount to anything they want to be regardless of how much the world throws their way. “Ghetto Woman” is by far one of the most powerful songs on the album. The album from here on out gets a little predictable with more intense alternative romance songs such as “Sally Ride” and “Victory” but she ends with a bang with ultra jazzy and reggae songs like “Dorothy Dandridge” featuring Esperanza Spaulding and “What an Experience.”

For someone who wasn’t a fan of Monae’s music when she first debuted in 2007, I think she has definitely come a long way in terms of reaching people like me who initially did not understand her unique persona. The album is Monae’s best work so far and is available today after hitting shelves on Sept. 10.