Feature

Janelle Monáe: The Electric Lady

Janelle Monáe shows “the breadth of her musical influences” in the second half of The Electric Lady.

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“Pop music could use a new black female heavyweight,” but Janelle Monáe isn’t quite ready for the role, said Jody Rosen in New York magazine. The second full-length album from the 27-year-old singer-songwriter is a showcase for both her “audacious talent” and her appetite for creating her own blend of funk, psychedelic soul, cocktail jazz, and the mood of a spaghetti-Western soundtrack. But “her songwriting remains fuzzy.” That’s an odd thing to say about an album “as front-loaded with potential hits as this one,” said Genevieve Koski in the A.V. Club. A duet with Prince and another with Erykah Badu highlight the early onslaught of “radio-friendly earworms and dance-floor bait.” But only in the “more personal” second half does Monáe show off “the breadth of her musical influences”—from Duke Ellington to Stevie Wonder. Most of the album spins out a half-baked sci-fi narrative about an android named Cindi Mayweather, but on the “heart-stopping” ballad “Victory,” we finally hear “the raw, emotive power” of Monáe’s own voice.

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