Since the release of her first EP in 2003, Janelle Monaé has enthralled audiences with her energetic, soulful music and the building of narrative through songs about love, change and revolution. Her latest album, The Electric Lady, was released on Sept. 10 to great acclaim — and for good reason.
The Electric Lady is comprised of suites IV and V of Monaé’s “Metropolis” saga, which tells the story of love and equality in a decidedly science fiction setting. Monaé’s love of the genre is clear, with several bonus segments framing the album as a science fiction story with a radio show run by and featuring androids.
Many of the songs draw inspiration from outside works and experiences, from The Odyssey’s sirens (“Look Into My Eyes”) to Michael Jackson (“Dance Apocalyptic”) to Monaé’s own life and experiences (“Victory”).
The titular character mentioned throughout the album was inspired by a series of paintings Monaé worked on and is presented in-story as a revolutionary figure.
The symbolism of androids is present through most of Janelle Monaé’s work, such as in her previous album The Archandroid.
When interviewed by The Evening Standard in 2011, Monaé explained that to her the idea of androids “represents the new ‘other’. You can compare it to being a lesbian or being a gay man or being a black woman … What I want is for people who feel oppressed or feel like the ‘other’ to connect with the music and to feel like, ‘she represents who I am’.”
Monaé encourages the listener to keep going, be strong and tells them that the world can be changed through art and music. There’s a sense that she takes her strength from these “othered” groups and their struggles, and that connection is what allows her to reach such a wide audience.
Combining all of this in Electric Lady, Monaé delivers a clear message: dance, love and live.
Most importantly, though, the album is fun. It’s energetic enough to get listeners dancing along and every song flows lightly into the next.
Along with her usual funk and soul stylings, Monaé brings in other genres such as pop, ballads and gospel. And it all works together to craft an absolute delight to listen to with or without the accompanying story.
If you enjoy Monaé’s previous works, you will love The Electric Lady. If you haven’t listened to her before but enjoy science fiction, soul and R&B music, futurism or social discourse, this album is highly recommended. Even if these topics aren’t of interest it is worth a listen; with the effort and skill put into it, something in here is bound to get your attention.
The Electric Lady, much like Monaé herself, is compelling, has a great deal of passion behind it and is worth all the praise it’s given.