Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Electric Lady

Gosh, I've been meaning to write about this album for FAR too long. But since I have an essay due in tomorrow, I guess I'll do it now. I'll start by shouting from the rooftops that I think Janelle Monae is AMAZING. Not only her music and her voice, but her whole image and how she sells herself. She's proud, she's confident, she works to redefine this rigid and gendered form of sexuality that overwhelms popular culture and the media. And this isn't an attention grabbing stance that she's adopted post-fame in order to sell her singles (though she definitely knows how to use it), she's radiated strength since the beginning.

Observe delicious power posing skillz

However, while it is feminism that attracts me to her as a reflection of my personal interests, her branding and self-presentation aims to overcome an entire spectrum of various prejudices concerning race, class, sex... And the reason why she can address this many issues is because of her treatment of discrimination as an idea, abstracting it in a fictional context of a dystopian future and a civil war between 'androids' and 'humans'. Like Philip K. Dick, Margaret Atwood and many others before her have done, Janelle Monae addresses today's prejudices by displacing them via science fiction. 

However, my mild idolisation of her as an artist did not make me more inclined to fall quickly for The Electric Lady, which was unveiled in September. I posted a while ago about the single 'Q.U.E.E.N.', which was the first from the album to be released and while I initially raved about the lyrics and the video (I was definitely over-excited about the presence of Erykah Badu), I have to admit the actual song never really grew on me as much as I expected. Luckily, the rest of the album was much more surprising, varied and musically exciting. 

The absolute best thing about it is how eclectic its different sounds are, while always seeming to stem out of that grooving Janelle Monae 'style' that characterised her debut album, ArchAndroid. We've got 'Dance Apocalyptic, with its rock 'n' rolling 60's vibe (all the 'smash smash' and 'chalangalangalang' did remind me of 'Grease Lightning', but that's probably more a reflection of me). We've got 'Givin 'Em What They Love' featuring PRINCE, none other! I woz not disappoint. Janelle Monae steps up to match the legend himself in rocky attitude, belting along to rousing Hendrix-esque guitar riffs (remember his album Electric Ladyland? See where I'm going here?) It reminded me of when Beyoncé covered 'The Beautiful Ones' at Glastonbury 2011. JANELLE MONAE TO HEADLINE GLASTO! Anyway, having proved that she can do rock, she then proceeds to nail the spanish-sounding 'Look Into My Eyes', the jazzy 'Dorothy Dandridge Eyes' (and anyone who knows me even slightly will know I girl crush HARD on Esperanza Spalding) and the smooth, R'n'B 'PrimeTime', which is probably one of my favourite songs on the album.

Having ranted about her image and style for far longer than necessary, I'll leave you with a brief demonstration of her songwriting excellence in the form of a few quotes from the album. Immortalise them in whichever way you please, and RESPECT to whoever gets 'the booty don't lie' tattoo-ed on their arse.

'To be victorious, you must find glory in the little things'
- 'Victory'

'Say will your God accept me in my black and white?'
- 'Q.U.E.E.N.'

'They want me locked up in the system
Cause I'm on a mission, blame it on my youth'
- 'Givin' Em What They Love'

'Don't throw no rock, don't break no glass, just shake your ass'
- 'Good Morning Midnight'

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