By Patrick Campbell
Released September 13th, 2013 - Warner Music
The second full length album from psychedelic-soul musician Janelle Monae has been long awaited by the musical community. Following her critically acclaimed Metropolis: The Chase Suite EP and 2010 full length release The Archandroid, this album had to be impressive, and it had to stand out like the two beforehand. This album certainly has made an impact, continuing her conceptual series Metropolis - this being suites 4 and 5 of the epic story of Cindi Mayweather (Monae's android alter-ego), it transports you forward through the centuries, giving you a glimpse of the future.
From the track-listing alone you can see Monae is out to impress, boasting features with; Prince, Erykah Badu, Solange, and more. Beginning the album with an 'Electric Overture' in her typical style, Monae makes a statement, right from the start she makes the listener understand this album is a strong, powerful piece of music. Each song flows into the other, leading you through the streets of Metropolis.
Monae gets all but one of the collaborations out of the way in the first six tracks, the first of these being the much anticipated Prince duet; 'Givin' Em What They Love'. This song is plain good. It's dirty funk. It makes you want to grit your teeth and snarl for some reason. This along with lead single 'Q.U.E.E.N' with Erykah Badu, title-track 'Electric Lady' with groove goddess Solange, and Primetime, an android love song featuringMiguel, all showcase how well Monae works with other artists and how variable her talent is. But don't get it wrong this album is about Monae or Mayweather, the rest of the album besides the second to last track is all her. Her voice floats through melodies, raps, and keeps you awe-struck for over an hour. Working her way through a number of genres including Punk-Pop in 'Dance Apocalyptic', and Jazz in 'Dorothy Dandridge Eyes', and even some Gospel is thrown into 'Victory' and 'Sally Ride'. Also there is something to be said for the fact that she finishes off the album with a Reggae breakdown in 'What An Experience'. It may sound hectic, and in a way it is. But she deals with this by dispersing three interludes through the album, these are supposed excerpts of an android radio station in Metropolis, pulling you deeper into the story, but giving you a break from the intense aural onslaught of this album. I do admit, that now having listened to the album a lot, I find these interludes annoying and usually skip them very quickly.
In a time where concept albums are slowly dying away, it is always heartening to see an artist deliver a stellar example of this style, and even more exciting when they deliver another just as brilliant - if not more - concept piece after. Not many artists these days are able to continuously deliver lengthy examples of good music, but Monae does. She takes you where she wants, and she makes you believe what she wants. There is something that will just make you smile when you hear this album. It's the sound of hope, the completely outrageous story, and the humour-filled interludes which make you wonder; is Metropolis real? Is this album a reality?
After delivering what I have told many people is my favourite concept album of the past decade, I had great expectations of Janelle Monae with this record. In her typical style, she blew me away, taking my expectations, tearing them apart and then using them as steps to get to something bigger and better than anything she has previously released. The ultimate highlight is 'Sally Ride', with an intense build up and the greatest vocal display you will find on any track by Monae, it's anthemic and genius. It's hard to describe how I reacted to this album, and how it made me feel. This is an album that everyone will react to differently, and that's why you should go and buy it. This album is a slick piece of material that most people will find hard to fault or dislike, and it has certainly already got me excited for the next instalment in the Metropolis series.
4 / 5