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Friday, October 4, 2013

The Electric Lady is Loaded with Spark

Loaded with her own eclectic and adventurous style, Janelle Monae’s newest album serves a much-needed dose of sonic superiority with her newest LP, The Electric Lady.

With solid vocals, production and songwriting, Monae has produced a modern classic in the most non-conventional ways possible. Surely talking about androids, the future and identity in relation to cyberspace would seem like anti-R&B concepts, yet somehow, Monae connects them all effortlessly for easy enjoyment.

Due to its funky mix of Afro-futurism and traditional R&B soul,The Electric Lady manages to sound both old-school but current at the same time.

This album marks a much anticipated return for an artist that has managed to introduce an entire context and mythology to her performance persona. Whether you prefer Janelle Monae or her performance Avatar, the almost-perfect computer hybrid Cindi Mayweather, this album gives a collection of new material featuring a dual point of view that connects to the world’s current obsession with our glossy digital profiles.

Monae’s delivery is marked with a huge amount of style and personality and this album is full of examples of the latter. This is easily seen in the flash and glam featured on the breakout single, Q.U.E.E.N., where Monae delivers a bass-heavy groove beneath a subtle empowerment anthem with help from another queen of independent thinking, Erykah Badu.

Production values are also top notch throughout the album. Richly layered vocals, live and synthesized instrumentation and interesting songwriting help this album carry on the tradition Monae has worked to maintain since her original EPs and her critically acclaimed but must slept-on full length debut, The Arch-Android.

On the second single, Dance Apocalyptic, Monae delivers a pure party track flavored with elements of the past to fun and exciting ends. By mixing in a clever sample of the 1960s songWipeout she is sure to have booties shaking on the dance floor.

Interestingly, The Electric Lady also boasts several high-profile guest spots which is moderately unusual when compared with previous releases from the artist. Over the years Monae has earned a reputation of preferring a solo approach to her music but not this time.

Miguel, Solange Knowles, Erykah Badu, Esperanza Spaulding and Prince all lend their considerable talents to the album but manage to not out-shine the main attraction: Janelle Monae. As the artist, she is the central component of this album’s musical mechanism and she is a stand out in that regard.

The length of the album is also much to be appreciated. In a time where artists tend to cap off their albums at mere dozen tracks or less, Monae gives a full 19 reasons to listen and even more in deluxe editions. While there hasn’t been a huge stretch since her last release, her second full album is a much needed breath of fresh air in a music climate that had begun to grow stale in her absence.

The album connects its narrative together with a series of interludes that take place during a radio broadcast that tie each of the sections together. The interludes also inject a consistent tone to the songs even though some of them are very different from each other.

Each of the tracks work together to tell a cohesive story and while there are clear radio singles to be found here, the albums flow encourages listening from beginning to end.

Bottom Line: The Electric Lady is one of the best releases of the year and is beyond worthy of the purchase price. Janelle Monae should be getting a lot more famous real soon.

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