By Chwayita January
Noted as an eccentric petite musical James Bond of our generation, there is certainly nothing debonair about Janelle’s Monae’s delivery, in her latest 2 disc project “The Electric Lady”. Monae stays true to her signature cybertron sound, while she embarks on her mission of denouncing all Beyonce like facsimiles (cite Keri Hilson and Ciara for references).
On her second release, Monae continues on her journey with her alter ego Cindi Mayweather to a road less travelled yet more familiar with R&B mainstream audiences, while still using her tool of scientific fiction to create a new world. Monae makes a statement with contributions from renowned artists such as the honorary, Prince in the track “Give ‘Em What They Want, which highlights Monae mission to reignite a dying trait of the music industry – originality; minus the all-meat dress in death enduring heels.
Unlike her previous work, The Archandroid, Monae quietens down to a grounded setting of love, ‘self-realization’ and ‘self-actualization’. She dismantles gift-wrapped personas of the industry to introduce a fresh new take and concept of feminism and perspectives of life. During a listening experience preview of her album in Detroit, New York; the Atlanta singer revealed that the concept of “Electric Lady” was to empower women and promote a different breed of women. Although Monae’s concept is not entirely original, her method is not in the least bit conventional of an I-can-do-it-own album, but more an effort to transcend the social construction of gender and political commentary. See it as a go in between of Tracey Chapman and Andre 3000.
A brief synopsis of Cindi Mayweather’s story flowed from her EP Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), which was the story of 57821, otherwise known as Cindi Mayweather, who fell in love with a human named Anthony Greendown in “Sir Greendown”. Marginalised by the android community, Cindi was labelled as a wanted android fugitive and prime target for The Droid Control’s bounty hunters. The flamboyant tale continued throughout Monae’s full debut album The Archandroid. The album left listeners wondering about Mayweather’s forbidden love and her destiny which is surprisingly not elaborated on in this offering. The Electric Lady instead follows responses from the android community, from support to rejection of her chosen lifestyle in call in sessions, heard in fictional radio interludes.
A call to find fugitive Cindi Mayweather
While Monae employs her familiar psychedelic urban funk genre, she assimilates her sound according to her contributor’s sound. In her first single Q.U.E.E.N featuring earthy Erykah Badu, a jazzy yet Diana Ross vibe seeps in with Badu’s cooing in the background, yet abruptly breaks into a Public Enemy styled rap, illustrating not only Mayweather’s rebellion but her rebellion to conform to the music industry. “They keep us underground/ working hard for the greedy/But when it’s time pay/ they turn around and call us needy.”.
Official video for single “Q.U.E.E.N” featuring Erykah Badu
The android’s quest becomes more ambiguous with the R&B old school inspired “Givin ‘Em What They Love,” which is undoubtedly the highlight track of the album featuring a man of many names himself (literally) Prince. He adds his element of fervent guitar riffs that will tantalise the soul of any Prince lover. A slight glimpse and perhaps the only clue of Cindy and Greendown’s love is explained in the love ballad “Primetime” featuring R&B’s current wonder boy Miguel. She doesn’t abandon her sci-fi funk which appears in the track “Dance Apocalyptic” which will have you jamming till you die. Other featuring artists include Esperanza Spalding and Solange Knowles.
Electric Lady is definitely less adventurous than its predecessors, but none the less brilliant in her unique ability to fuse genres and get her point across from the album cover to her tuxedo uniform. The only slight disappoint is how she almost completely abandoned her narrative of Cindi Mayweather journey in the sequence of the album. However she continues to invites audiences into a radical futuristic revolution to enter a twerkless world of independent thinkers. You certainly won’t need to be on any sort of narcotics to feel this album.
Follow Janelle Monae on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JanelleMonae
Buy her album on iTunes