Words About Music
Janelle Monáe “The Electric Lady”
Cindi Mayweather is an android in the future. She is also the protagonist of Janelle Monáe’s 7-part “Metropolis” series, which began with her 2007 EP
“Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase),” continued with 2010’s “The ArchAndroid,” and carries on with her new album “The Electric Lady.” Cindi Mayweather’s tale begins in the year 2719, after being produced in the city of Metropolis, which suffers from very severe separation of the classes. Cindi ends up falling in love with a human, and in “The ArchAndroid” (Suites II and III), she gets sent back in time to defeat a secret oppressive society called The Great Divide. Mayweather’s fight for love and establishing a better society for her fellow androids (who see her as some sort of messiah) continues in the much more R&B and soul oriented “The Electric Lady,” which contains Suites IV and V of the series.
With “The ArchAndroid,” Monáe brought a certain flair and charisma to pop music that is not seen very often. It was colorful, fun, flamboyant, and powerful in the same way that Prince and OutKast were. With “The Electric Lady,” she brings that same color and flair, but does so in a much more solemn way. It’s empowering and fun, but it’s also more soulful and romantic. Guest contributions from Prince, Erykah Badu, Miguel, Solange, and Esperanza Spalding just add to the extremely well written future-pop album. If “The ArchAndroid” was Monáe’s “ATLiens” then “The Electric Lady” is most definitely her “Aquemini.”
But I must point out that as consistent as this record is, it isn’t perfect. There are a few played-out cliches and common tropes present here, which I think are definitely presented the most in “Can’t Live Without Your Love,” which seems more like filler than an addition to the story. Suite IV is definitely the stronger half of “The Electric Lady” if you love “The ArchAndroid” as much as I do. I’ve always thought that Janelle Monáe was better as a pop singer than an R&B singer, but she definitely holds her own in some of the Suite V tracks, especially “Sally Ride” and “Ghetto Woman.”
If history repeats itself, we are only three years from the exciting conclusion to Cindi Mayweather’s tale. But even if you don’t pay attention to the concept itself, this series of albums is extremely well-crafted. “The ArchAndroid” is funky, “The Electric Lady” is jazzy, what possible genres will the final two suites of the Metropolis series experiment with? Maybe we’ll get a full-on gangsta-rap conclusion. I know I’d love to have Andre 3000 collaborate with Monáe; he’d fit right in with the futuristic funk that OutKast have also worked with. Whatever happens, Janelle knows what she’s doing at this point and I can’t wait to hear what tricks she has up her sleeve. The Metropolis series is living proof that sci-fi sequels aren’t always terrible, and I’m sure the conclusion will be as exciting as it’s always been.
SCORE – 8.1
FAVORITE TRACKS – Givin’ Em What They Love (feat. Prince), Q.U.E.E.N. (feat. Erykah Badu), Electric Lady (feat. Solange), We Were Rock And Roll, Dance Apocalyptic, Ghetto Woman, Sally Ride, What An Experience