Janelle Monáe’s sophomore album, The Electric Lady, was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. This followup to her exquisite debut, The ArchAndroid (one of Muruch’s Top Albums of 2010), continues the bizarre, enthralling tale of time travelling android Cindy Mayweather – first introduced in Janelle’s Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase) EP. However, you needn’t have heard the previous two albums in Janelle’s mythic trilogy to enjoy The Electric Lady. The music on the album is as interesting, diverse and addictive as we’ve come to expect from Janelle and finds her collaborating with Prince, Erykah Badu, Solange, Miguel and Esperanza Spalding.
I’m not usually a fan of instrumental intros, but Janelle’s anticipation-building “Suite IV Electric Overture” is an exception. The liner notes say it was “inspired by the idea of Ennio Morricone playing cards with Duke Ellington.”
The standout track “Give Em What They Love” is exactly the kind of fun, multi-layered funk duet you want from Janelle Monáe and Prince. The clip on Amazon does not do the song justice, it needs to be played in full on high volume through stereo speakers.
Almost as good is “Q.U.E.E.N.” with Janelle’s quirky, melodic, semi-rap defiance and a guest appearance by Erykah Badu. I first posted the video here last May and you can watch it again below.
The album’s title track has a slightly more traditional R&B dance sound with guest vocals by Solange.
Another major highlight is “Primetime,” a sultry, soulful ballad duet with Miguel. You can watch the brand new video for the track below.
“Dance Apocalyptic” is a fun dance tune, though it’s not nearly as crazy as the title suggests. You can see the video below.
“Look Into My Eyes,” “It’s Code” and “Can’t Live Without Your Love” show off the lovely, gentler side of Janelle’s voice.
Janelle’s ode to “Sally Ride” is quite the fantastic journey, the ultimate futuristic soul song. And Esperanza Spalding’s voice is the perfect match for Janelle’s in the Neo-Soul song “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes.”
Though I can’t say I enjoy listening to the somewhat jarring pseudo-radio interludes interspersed throughout the album, I do love that Janelle still makes actual albums. Her fantasy concepts aside, Janelle obvious wants her fans to play her albums in their entirety and take them as a whole listening experience rather than a collection of singles with some filler.
That kind of artistic attention to detail combined with a gorgeous voice, a flare both for the dramatic as well as the funky and a science fiction churning imagination continue to put Janelle Monáe into a category all her own: Cyber-Soul.