Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady (2013)

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The Electric Lady is, in Janelle Monáe’s words, “this glowing Technicolor woman.” A totem of sorts, the vision of the titular force behind her second full-length record drives every ounce of these remarkable songs and this more remarkable vision.

“Regal, powerful and electric,” Monáe’s imagination takes hold from the outset of the follow-up to The ArchAndroid and serves as fuel for what could best be described as dangerous dance music. The driving force of The Electric Lady pushes from odes to empowerment, sex, identity, and feminism to a continuation of the journey of Cindi Mayweather, the protagonist from the Metropolis EP.

Indeed, the “Suite IV: Electric Overture” that commences this musical journey is another entry in the ongoing Metropolis saga gleefully painted by Monáe. In the tale, Mayweather is an android moving from knowing herself to realizing how she can apply her power to better the world around her.

The Electric Lady is like the big action sequence in the third act of an epic film. Every party this album starts, or every baby born because of it, is actually another victory against the Great Divide,” says Monáe.

Given that the first full track on the record, “Givin’ ‘Em What They Love,” features a guest performance by the one and only Prince, it’s safe to say that Monáe might be starting many a party and leading to many a baby. The track rocks a exquisite beat and an undeniable funk spirit, but it’s the vocal blends and guitar magic that sends this thing into the stratosphere.

Elsewhere, our hero rocks her heroic hand at rap (“Q.U.E.E.N.”) and scores big points alongside Miguel and a sexy Pixies sample (“Primetime”). All the while, Monáe’s decision-making keeps things compelling. There are tonal surprises written all over The Electric Lady, a surefire way to keep the glow on that Technicolor goddess.

Consider the neon jazz glow of “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes,” for instance. Here Monáe puts in a vocal performance that captures all the nuances of the genre without sacrificing the sheer groove of the album’s concept. Esperanza Spalding’s presence is a neat bonus, adding texture to this forward-thinking tune.

Or there’s “Ghetto Woman,” a piece that certainly digs into Stevie Wonder territory without sounding like a dull rehash.

With The Electric Lady, Monáe has fired yet another staggering shot against the Great Divide. One of today’s most compelling, most entertaining artists in any genre of music, this Kansas City native sure as hell is the droid you’re looking for.

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Jordan Richardson

Jordan Richardson is a Canadian freelance writer and ne'er-do-well. He also contributes to his own Canadian Cinephile and Canadian Audiophile websites. Contact Something Else! Reviews at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
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