Janelle Monae
The Electric Lady


4.3
superb

Review

by Jacob R. STAFF
September 24th, 2013 | 35 replies


Release Date: 09/10/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: She's on fire.

Exciting music lends itself to exciting discussions. While the talks about Janelle Monae’s latest record have been predictably revealing, only one sentiment about The Electric Lady has stuck with me-- this is the warmest Monae has ever sounded. On Suites II and III of The Archandroid, the soul diva found herself contending with multiple themes via innumerable musical styles. Some of it was flashy, and other parts were subtle. Yet, at the end of the day, the album balanced itself quite well across its hour-long-plus runtime. For everything this album’s predecessor accomplished, though, it felt inexplicably frigid. It was The Archandroid, sure, but it didn’t sound like Janelle Monae-- just the caricatures she was talented at conjuring up.

I’m not sure the musician sees her previous work in that critical light, but either way, her latest effort is a full-fledged step towards relatability. This record is inviting in all the right directions; while its predecessor best fit the reverb of concert halls, The Electric Lady would be right at home performed in a snug and smoky bar on Vaudeville. Much of this has to do with production-- Monae further acquaints herself with organic instrumentation this time around-- but on the same token, even she plays a bigger part here. “PrimeTime”, a smooth-as-silk lover’s ballad, shows off Monae’s voice at its peak and makes it evident that she’s only singing for herself. And while “Given Em What They Love” may have been an odd choice to open the album, it kicks into high gear with Monae’s shrieks of “Take your time!” It really does take a charismatic queen to outshine Prince’s cameo appearance on the tune.

The Electric Lady is comprised of two suites, just like the album before it. But this time around, both movements are more thematically uniform: Suite IV is where Janelle Monae blows away the audience, and Suite V is where she coaxes them back to their seats. The fifth suite is leisurely, offering one slow jam after another-- absolute gems of ballads like “Can’t Live Without Your Love” probably shouldn’t be placed between similarly paced tracks-- but it does wrap up the album in intelligently well-thought-out fashion. It makes more sense once putting The Electric Lady’s second half in context, to see the suite as the thematic counterpoint to Suite IV’s balls-out approach. Nevertheless, it’s refreshing to see Monae as focused as she is throughout this release.

It’s true that this is the warmest Janelle Monae has sounded in quite some time; her music now is more a magnifying glass than a mask. But no matter how many times androids are mentioned on this record, and regardless of how clear the Q.U.E.E.N. makes it that this is soul music with a political heart, all I hear is our favorite pop star finally letting us in.



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user ratings (294)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
Tony Li (4.5)
A smooth blend of neon lights, radiant brass, and of course, electricity. Drink it up....

BrianE (4)
The R&B/pop diva aims for an even bigger smash hit on her sophomore album....

Greg Fisher STAFF (4.6)
The visionary pop star follows the trajectory of her genre-hopping previous endeavors with more driv...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Omaha
Staff Reviewer
September 24th 2013


10310 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3 | Sound Off

my media class ended an hour early, so this thing happened.

bigguytoo9
September 25th 2013


260 Comments


I really dig "Primetime" off this disc, Monae and Miguel are on fire.

AgainAnd
September 25th 2013


268 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Your angle of approach to this album shows already in the summary, as it's the only one so far without such warm and relatable descriptors as "The R&B/pop diva blablabla" or "The visionary pop star blablabla". Curiously, your rating is right between the other two review scores.

Digging: Nick Mulvey - First Mind

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
September 25th 2013


28705 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

lol another one of these




Digging: Jessie Ware - Tough Love

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
September 25th 2013


28705 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

whatever i cant really be pissed this is a solid record hopefully it will take some end of the year votes away from timberlake

klap
Staff Reviewer
September 25th 2013


10510 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

why is this record so fucking long

Digging: Caribou - Our Love

Cygnatti
September 25th 2013


21387 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I heard someone say it was a double album, but that seemed like an isolated comment. Haven't heard many others say the same.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 25th 2013


7314 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

why is this record so fucking long [2]



Omaha
Staff Reviewer
September 25th 2013


10310 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3 | Sound Off

AgainAnd, it took me awhile to understand what you're saying. I see what you mean now, though! Odd coincidence.

< 3 you Academy!

AgainAnd
September 25th 2013


268 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, I'm not at my most coherent at 7 am. I've yet to really warm up to Suite V, but I expect to do so eventually.

ProjectFreak
September 25th 2013


1419 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

digging this, i don't think it feels as long as its tracklist implies, and she's just so good. "Primetime" is delicious.

Digging: From Indian Lakes - Absent Sounds

AgainAnd
September 25th 2013


268 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yes, Primetime is prime stuff.

808muzik
September 25th 2013


960 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

what a jam

brandontaylor
September 25th 2013


81 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i really want to like suite 5 as much as suite 4 but it's not happening. maybe it'll take time. i'm only now appreciating suite 3 from the archandroid where i always used to not bother with the second half of that album.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
September 25th 2013


7423 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

I'm digging your write-up for this. Good job, Jacob.

Digging: Dope Body - Lifer

stepmaniac
September 25th 2013


202 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review, Jacob! "Q.U.E.E.N." has been on repeat for the past two days now.

Chrisjon89
September 25th 2013


3754 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

not a big fan of Primetime, aside from the vocals. i still think Prince is the best feature. love his harmonies at the end of that track. and i like Janelle's rapping in general. reminds me of Lauryn Hill.

this is still really cool but the melodies were stronger on The ArchAndroid to me, and she really pulled off all the different styles on that one without messing with the flow of it. the pacing was good too. this one doesn't stray as far stylistically, and even when it does it doesn't always pay off.

not sure about the 'caricatures being conjured' on the previous album as a way to distinguish it from this one. one could make the argument that Ghetto Woman is an obvious throwback/homage to 70s era Stevie Wonder and is as derivative as anything on The ArchAndroid? Dorothy Dandridge Eyes is pretty reminiscent of MJ's 'I Can't Help It' too, which Esperanza covered.

good review.

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

Cygnatti
September 25th 2013


21387 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

"this is still really cool but the melodies were stronger on The ArchAndroid to me, and she really pulled off all the different styles on that one without messing with the flow of it. the pacing was good too. this one doesn't stray as far stylistically, and even when it does it doesn't always pay off.

agreed. well, I still find that most things were generally stronger in ArchAndroid, the flow, the pacing, the melodies, etc.

but ofc, this could still be a grower like ArchAndroid was.

Chrisjon89
September 25th 2013


3754 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i agree ^ ArchAndroid stronger across the board. i loved that from the first listen and I was pretty hyped for it cos I enjoyed Many Moons so much off her EP.

maybe this will grow. has grown a tad for me but not enough to bump the rating. i should probably stop comparing it and just enjoy it for what it is.

guitarded_chuck
September 25th 2013


3198 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

why is this record so fucking long [3]



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