- Bad Boy
By Gregory Hicks, Daily Arts Writer
Published September 10, 2013
Janelle Monáe might be an electric lady, but this gal is on fire. The multi-Grammy-nominated R&B artist returns with a sequel to her 2010 debut album ArchAndroid, and backtracks the saga of Cindi Mayweather in this prequel tale. Monáe devised the sci-fi character of Mayweather — an android on the run, in fear of being disassembled — on her debut EP Metropolis, Suite I: The Chase, and has expanded Mayweather’s story ever since.
The Electric Lady
Bad Boy Records
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The Electric Lady’s title choice speaks more to the sci-fi tale than the style of the record. While there is an electronic presence felt on most of the tracks, the album’s roots are wired deepest to classic R&B. Further, the electric aura is reminiscent of dainty disco, not 2013’s dirty dub. The orchestral atmosphere of the “Suite IV Electric Overture” and “Suite V Electric Overture” is somewhat unrelated to either of these genres, but complements the record as a plot device to a thriller story, with both overtures bearing a striking resemblance to a 007 film soundtrack.
The three album interludes nurse the plot through a radio disc-jockey show that’s deceptively similar to a radio show from the ’60s, but with discussion topics about androids and the future. “Our Favorite Fugitive (Interlude)” involves DJ Crash Crash taking calls from listeners to discuss various opinions of the “favorite fugitive” Cindi Mayweather. The caller responses within the interlude potentially draw parallels to homosexuality disputes of present day, in particular when a man howls, “Robot love is queer!”
The Electric Lady’s 19 tracks would suggest excessive filler for an R&B record, but the album touches perfection at this length in its endeavor to mirror a fantasy film soundtrack. The generous supply of songs works coherently as each piece gradually shifts into the next, making for few gaps between tracks — a technique exercised on Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor album.
The glory is in the record as an entity, but a few tracks emerge as groovier than others. “Q.U.E.E.N.” ’s heavy bassline and “The Electric Lady” ’s up-tempo, percussive drive forge dance-friendly tunes with a slice of contemporary in Solange and Erykah Badu’s rap collaborations.
In a modern-day sea of records spat out to generate singles revenue, this latest R&B creation breaks free as an adventurous tale intricately woven through a multi-genre record. Monáe’s productions gradually garner more attention as the years go by, and with the attention bred from her recent collaboration with fun. in the three-time Grammy-nominated track “We Are Young,” The Electric Lady should have more eyes and ears than any of Monae’s previous achievements.