in Review

Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady

Apparently 2010 was a pretty awesome year for music, since I can remember Janelle Monae’s The ArchAndroid coming out and critics being pretty enthusiastic about it.  And yet, for some reason I figured I could just let this one pass me by, despite Monae’s music being the exact kind of amalgam of retro R&B sounds that usually make me proclaim, “I can dig it”.  But nonetheless, I didn’t end up getting into The ArchAndroid until about a month ago when I heard The Electric Lady‘s fantastic single, “Dance Apocalyptic”, which affirmed my suspicions that Monae was a talent worth paying attention to.  Also, I should remind you that this is the second music review in a row in which I’ve sighted an awesome album from 2010 that I just recently got into.  So yeah.  2010, it’s the year that keeps on giving.

As far as Janelle’s Monae’s influences, I don’t think she’s terribly concerned about hiding them, since one of her bigger ones (Prince) makes an appearance on the album.  And besides the Purple One, you can also see Monae continuing to indulge all sorts of R&B reference points, from ’70s funksters like Stevie Wonder and George Clinton to more recent hip-hop influences.  And then on top of that, you’ve got Monae continuing to pursue the sci-fi concept album aesthetic, as she once again explores the adventures of Cyndi Maywhether, her fictional android persona.  So obviously there’s a lot of stuff going on here.  Which begs the question, is there too much stuff going on here?

Maybe.  With a 67 minute running time, The Electric Lady is a bit larger in scope than The ArchAndroid, and consequently is a little less consistent.  Sure, there are some hip-shakingly golden moments here, like the aforementioned “Dance Apocalyptic”, or the deep funk of the Erykah Badu collaboration “Q.U.E.E.N.”.  But at the same time, I could probably do without a couple of the slower songs, as well as the radio-themed skits that are interspersed throughout the album.  Still, it’s hard not to be charmed by a singer who’s willing to throw together so many gleefully disparate elements, all while doing it with the utmost chutzpah.

Favorite Tracks: “Q.U.E.E.N.”, “Dance Apocalyptic” “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes”