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Creativity and innovation have been missing for a long time from the majority of mainstream music. However very so often, an artist comes along and breaks through the barriers that block these two vital parts of music, and when they do break through, they do so in an incredible way. That can be said of Janelle Monae’s upcoming sophomore studio album(which will be released September 10), ‘The Electric Lady’.
Covering the fourth and fifth suites of her Metropolis concept series, the theme of the album continues the utopian cyborg concepts of its predecessors, ‘Metropolis Suite 1 (The Chase)’ and ‘The ArchAndroid’. Where ‘The Electric Lady’ differs from Monae’s past albums is in the way it presents itself by using more plainspoken language and it enters more personal territory. Throughout the album’s nineteen tracks, twenty four on the deluxe version, Monae experiments with genres beyond conventional funk. The album begins with the “Suite IV: Electric Overture” which opens the listener’s ears with its classic cinema sound that is part spaghetti Western and part film noir. What comes after this dramatic introduction is music that grabs the listener’s ears and doesn’t let go for the duration of the album.
The album has a continuity which moves through styles and textures with ease. There is a variety of soul music genres that are present throughout. Woozy and sensual vocal ballads are heard in Monae’s collaboration with Prince on “Givin Em What They Love” and with Miguel on the track “PrimeTime.” A gospel influence is strongly felt on the track “Victory.” Jazz breaks through on the second to last track on the album “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes” where Monae debuts her last collaboration that features Esperanza Spalding. The pop genre represents on tracks like “Electric Lady” featuring Solange, “We Were Rock and Roll,” “Can’t Live Without Your Love,” and “Sally Ride.”
Monae also gives a shot out to classic genres when she sings the track “It’s Code,” it’s reminiscent of the Motown sound, specifically the Jackson Five. “Dance Apocalyptic” has that old time Rock’n’Roll, similar to something Elvis would sing in the 50s. On the last track the rightfully titled “What an Experience,” because listeners do have an experience, Monae comes back to the present and sends off listeners with the song’s reggae-styled beat. Listeners will also enjoy the interludes in between the tracks which features a futuristic radio station in all its glory with its hosts and listeners-some who support the fugitive android Cindy Mayweather and those who don’t. What makes these interludes even more appealing, is how realistic they sound.
Overall this album does what other albums have yet to do this year: bring creativity and innovation to the mainstream. This album has broken through the barriers of stagnation that have built up over the years in the mainstream music industry. It has a strong appeal for music lovers from all backgrounds, and has a listenability that will grow for years to come. ‘The Electric Lady’ is a Grammy contender and rightfully so. What an experience to behold. Well done Ms. Monae.
Rating: SUPERB 5/5
Image credit: Janelle Monáe via Facebook