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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Janelle Monae - Electric Lady - ALBUM REVIEW

GENRES: R&B, Funk, Pop, R&B/Soul

TOP TRACKS: Suite IV Electric Overture, Give Em What They Love, Q.U.E.E.N., Primetime, We Were Rock and Roll, Dance Apocalyptic, Suite V Electric Overture, Ghetto Woman, Sally Ride

Janelle Monae is an R&B musician releasing her second full length album entitled Electric Lady. Janelle Monae is known not only for her outstanding singing voice but the vivid production and soulful musicianship that is a part of all of her music. As an artist in a genre that is somewhat unde appreciated (that genre being R&B), Janelle is able to stand out as one of the most creative and memorable personalities in the genre and she's definitely a favorite of mine.She's so electrifying and bold with everything she does and I really do respect her as an artist. So much so that I enjoy her music even though I've really never gotten into any other modern R&B artists at all.

Janelle's sophomore album. Electric Lady is a spectacle of colorful production, impressive vocals and unorthodox yet worthwhile R&B/Soul/Funk arrangements throughout. Overall it's very well done in every sense of the way. Janelle Monae's signature series of musical "Suites" continues with Suites IV and V, both of which are very old school and a bit more jazzy than any of the music that she has every put out before. What these tracks tell me is that Janelle Monae is paying much respects to her roots. There are stylistic similarities on Electric Lady that represent the work of legends like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, and even James Brown on here. And perhaps the most obvious example of Janelle's tribute to her idols is the appearance of none other than Prince on this very record!

The track that Prince is on is just this explainable yet satisfying mix of classic R&B and the modern pop sound which is much more colorful and bit more electronic than the old sound. Janelle Monae seemlessly blends these two styles together with the magic tie being her outstanding voice. Her voice has this certain quality to it that just makes it very intoxicating to listen to. Also it's catchy as hell which doesn't hurt at all.

However, my absolute favorite songs on Electric Lady are the ones with a more present funk influence, and my god does Janelle Monae know to get funky. First there was "Q.U.E.E.N." with a guitar so funky that it puts Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" to shame when compared. Also, this track features synthesizers and really full and deep harmonies. Then there's the high energy "We Were Rock and Roll". This track is by far the standout for me. It's funky, it's quick and it's wonderful. Janelle's range is very impressive here. This year has proven more than anything that Disco will never die.  It's also a bit quirky which the other appealing characteristic about Janelle Monae that takes a bit to put your finger on. From the way she carries herself to the way she dresses to the way she writes her music ("Dance Apocalyptic" features a Ukelele intro!), Janelle Monae is definitely far from the norm of a typical commercial pop-star and yet she succeeds. Her music receives even critical which is difficult for pop-stars to do these days.

I think perhaps the reason for this is that her music has a purpose and social commentary scattered throughout. On Electric Lady, this is accomplished through the use of 'skits' (a word I am hesitant to use in this context) which play off as bits from a radio station with flamboyant African American DJ taking calls. He takes calls from people who are being ignorant and intolerant of "Androids" which are Janelle Monae's social metaphors for people who are being oppressed by society (homosexuals, blacks, etc.). This is actually very creative and very relevant. I respect Janelle Monae even more for recognizing that just because she is creating music with a pop flavor, she is still an artist and has the freedom to do anything she wants to creatively, even if it may be socially commentary that might be controversial to some people.

There a few misses on this album as to be expected on any album that's over an hour long. For example "It's Code" may be a bit of different direction however the purposeful mixing of the keys in the song don't really rub me the right way. Also on the track "Can't Live Without Your Love", Janelle shoots for a soulful ballad but she doesn't really succeed in my eyes. I'd much rather listen to "Sally Ride" or even the track with Miguel "Primetime" because these are much more creative variations of the Soul genre. In fact these tracks are really strong. I actually felt that one of these two tracks should closed out the album considering the fact that "What an Experience" isn't that exciting of a closer and it's really nothing extraordinary either. Such a well-produced and meticulously crafted album deserved a better ending in my opinion.

Overall, I am loving this album. I'll definitely go back to it from time to time and the majority of the tracks on Electric Lady are excellent. This style of production is very aesthetically pleasing and also very effective in carrying Janelle Monae's already excellent voice to a completely different level. Don't just listen to this album, buy it. Then listen to it again and again and again and continue to be amazed.