In my few decades on this planet, I’ve become jaded about concept albums. Either the concept is too vague to unify the songs, or it’s so weird that it ruins what might have been. Luckily, Ms. Monae uses subtlety in expressing her weird theme. There’s some android revolution going on in the background of her music, but honestly, I pay it zero attentions. I usually only like about half of her music, so little that the theme misses me. That makes me feel like a half-fan, like I’m fake if I don’t appreciate everything that she’s offering. But that half that I like? I REALLY like it, so oh well! Half-fan it is!
As you may have guessed, I’m really happy with The Electric Lady. It has the soul sound that I sorely missed when playing Tamar Braxton’s Love and War. Q.u.e.e.n. and Electric Lady both work really well with their funk influences and Erykah Badu and Solange features. Primetime, with Miguel, would have been my favorite track on the album because I love its easy-going vocals and excellent guitar work, but another song takes that title. It’s Code blew me away from the literal second it started. The background vocals, synthesizer solo, persistent bassline, funky drums, and lyrical style all sound like they came straight out of the 70s, in the best way possible. To me, it sounds like a Jackson 5 tribute, where Janelle does Michael’s memory proud.
So far, that’s funk, Motown, and R&B ballads all done well. But Janelle never sticks with one style for long. There are many semi-fast songs that I had no interest in (can anyone see a pattern here? Knowledge don’t dance!) One has a juke joint kind of sound and is helpfully named Dance Apocalyptic so I knew what to expect. And please forgive me, but I’ve never been too fond of Prince, so the successful mimicking of his style on Givin Em What They Love, which incidentally features him, didn’t move me much.
Even though some of The Electric Lady‘s songs failed to grab me, I couldn’t help but always appreciate the talent displayed. All these different styles done so authentically show that Janelle Monae is an artist with ludicrous amounts of creativity on tap. She doesn’t just mimic a style, she becomes it for the length of that song. As long as some of those styles keep being the ones I love, I’m satisfied.