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Album Review: The Electric Lady by Janelle Monáe

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The Electric Lady, Janelle Monae

Source: Wikipedia

The Electric Lady is Monáe’s follow-up to 2010’s The Arch Android. It is the fourth and fifth chapters of the futuristic sci-fi saga Metropolis. Guest on the album include Prince, Erykah Badu, Miguel, Solange, and Esperanza Spalding.  While this album has a more urban sound than the previous installment, it still manages to showcase Monáe’s skill as a vocalist, lyricist, and producer.

The most notable thing about the album is its sound. While it is still eclectic somewhat, it is mostly soul, funk, jazz, and R& B. While it may polarize fans of her idiosyncratic sound, it will also gain Monáe fans. A notable track with a Motown girl-group throwback sound is “Dance Apocalyptic”.

In addition to Monáe’s sound being centered, her lyrics are more focused on one thing: love. Tracks such as “Q.U.E.E.N.” “Electric Lady”, and “Ghetto Woman” focus on empowering women with self-love, while songs such as “PrimeTime”, and “Dorothy Danridge Eyes” focus on love for someone else. Other songs such as “Victory” and “What an Experience” focus on loving life overall.

While the thoughts on different aspects of love are interesting, a disappointing factor is the lack of the original concept in the lyrics. Unlike on the previous album, there is barely any mention of Monáe’s alter-ego Cindy Merryweather and her lover Sir Greendown. If Monáe was going for a more plain approach, then fine. However, those who are following the saga of Metropolis may feel a bit confused.

Finally,  Monáe’s vocals are much richer on this album than her previous one. Maybe it is because she is doing genres best suited for her voice, but Monáe is reminiscent of  Diana Ross and Erykah Badu. Some of best songs vocally are “Givin Em What They Love” and “Look Into My Eyes”.

This album is great for contemporary urban music fans. If you couldn’t get into  Janelle Monáe before, then feel free to give her another chance.

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Written by Serena Zola

September 9, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Musician Spotlight: Janelle Monáe

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Janelle Monae

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Anybody ever become a fan of a musician right when they are about to release a new album? That is the case with me.

Out of curiosity, I read a recent interview about Janelle Monáe in TIME magazine. Soon, she will be releasing her second album The Electric Lady.

A sentence about her eclectic sound and a timeline that featured her influences caught my attention. However, the misleading subheading about her being an R & B innovator made me wary  because I don’t like much R & B. With somewhat low expectations, I decided to check out Monáe’s first album The ArchAndroid.

According to another interview I read, The Arch Android is a concept album set in a futuristic sci-fi world called Metropolis. There, an android named Cindi Mayweather is sent to free  the citizens from the Great Divide, a society that suppresses freedom and love. Furthermore, this album is the second and third part of the story, the first having been released on the EP Metropolis Suite 1: The Chase. Of course, the fourth and fifth part will be released on The Electric Lady. There are seven parts total.

To my very pleasant surprise, I ended up liking almost every track on ArchAndroid. TIME magazine was wrong to call Monáe an R&B innovator, because she is a music innovator period. For the first time, I heard some meta-genre songs. One of my favorite tracks, “Say You’ll Go” has a soul sound, yet also features the piano music of Claude Debussy.  Other sounds on the album include jazz, pop, funk, R&B, and rock. Another thing that impressed me about the album was its lyrics, which were beautiful, empowering, and sometimes funny.

Other things that impress me about Monáe are her vocals, live performances, and music videos. When it comes to her vocals, they are either soulful, silly, or high-powered depending on the song. One of her best songs vocally is “Come Alive (The War of The Roses)”. Her voice is pretty high-powered on this song, sounding exactly like an electric guitar’s high note.  Also, the live version of this song is even better than the album version because you get to see Monáe have fun with the song and interact with the audience.

Last but not least, the music videos. Although I’ve only seen the music videos done for ArchAndroid (there are some for the upcoming album and the EP mentioned earlier), I consider her to be just as creative as Michael Jackson. Of the two videos I’ve seen, “Cold War” is my favorite because it is so simple and yet so moving. The other music video “Tightrope” is a fun and somewhat serious video that illustrates part of the story of Metropolis.

To be sure, Janelle Monáe is definitely of my favorite musicians now. I’m looking forward to seeing more of her work.

Written by Serena Zola

September 6, 2013 at 4:12 PM

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