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The Electric Lady
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Vinyl, May 13, 2014
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As she began the audacious task of following up on her acclaimed debut LP The ArchAndroid - an album that topped critic's lists in 2010 all over the world - she took along some trusty, brave companions: the original music producers of The ArchAndroid, Nate "Rocket" Wonder and Chuck Lightning of Wondaland Productions. And together they crafted a new strain of jamming music they called "ish." In the hip hop community, "ish" is a euphemism for the profane four-letter word for excrement, but as Monáe explains, they set out, like proverbial alchemists, to turn lesser substances into gold.
"This entire project was produced by Wonder & Lightning. We set out to make a soundtrack for the Obama era, something that spoke to the beautiful, majestic and revolutionary times that we're living in. The musical language we're speaking now is called ish. In the African-American community, we've been turning left-overs (like chitlins) and social depredation (like poverty) into delicacies and fine art for years. So we just set out to turn the rubbish all around us into something beautiful. Ish is the bowtie on the funk."
From the sound of The Electric Lady, ish is an urgent and dangerous form of dance music, rebel music that forces one to fight, jam, and fall in love. Like on The ArchAndroid, the sonic textures of the album are varied, and the past and present come together to explode and create a mind-blowing future for pop and soul music. For example, wondrous strings reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield and Bernard Herrmann orchestrations abound, Hendrixian guitar solos soar, Outkast-like raps float over punk rock riffs; defiant socially-conscious lyrics extol the virtues of soul-searching and fighting for change, while the funk simply melts your speakers: 808s boom and Prince-like synthesizers squiggle in your earhole, making it veritably impossible to just sit still.
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- Language: : English
- Product Dimensions : 5.94 x 4.88 x 0.35 inches; 3.39 Ounces
- Manufacturer : Bad Boy Records
- Item model number : 27478140
- Original Release Date : 2013
- Date First Available : July 27, 2013
- Label : Bad Boy Records
- ASIN : B00DNDR29I
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: #52,048 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The Electric Lady, comprising Suites IV and V of Monáe’s seven-part Metropolis sequence, is, at 67 minutes, one minute shorter than The ArchAndroid, but it’s no less ambitious. For this installment in the saga of android-cum-resistance-leader-cum-Messiah Cindi Mayweather, Monáe leaves some of the genre explorations behind in order to dig more deeply into explicitly African American musical traditions. There’s still plenty of diversity, however, as a glance at the guest list indicates: Prince, Solange Knowles, Erykah Badu, Miguel, and Esperanza Spalding occupy vastly different artistic space. But Monáe is comfortable working alongside them all, synthesizing reggae, smooth R&B, hip-hop, Motown, West Coast jazz, and electric blues with a gleeful catholicity and a singular vision that call to mind no lesser luminary than the mighty Stevland Judkins himself.
Monáe’s renewed focus on black music is reflective of The Electric Lady’s unabashed Girl Power, Black Power ethos. From the afro-feminist anthem “Q.U.E.E.N.”:
"My crown too heavy like Queen Nefertiti
Gimme back my pyramid, I'm trying to free Kansas City…
You can take my wings but I'm still goin' fly
And even when you edit me the booty don't lie"
Themes of freedom permeate The Electric Lady: freedom from economic oppression, freedom from sexual repression, freedom from racism, freedom from self-doubt. Far from growing overbearing, Monáe's politics invest her music with the revolutionary fervor of a young black woman from Kansas City in an era of Barack Obama and Trayvon Martin. The revolution may not be televised, but you will be able to dance to it. Moreover, the political is always personal, as The Electric Lady’s multiple fine love songs (“It’s Code,” “We Were Rock & Roll,” “What an Experience”) and hymns to spiritual empowerment (“Victory”) attest. “I'll keep singing songs until the pain goes,” she sings on the lattermost cut, one of many highlights. “'Cause to be victorious/You must find glory in the little things.”
In a recent Rolling Stone interview, Monáe said, "I want to redefine beauty and goals for young women. It's about breaking down stereotypes, fighting against oppression, trying to save the world." That’s a tall order for anybody, even a young, gifted, black woman like Ms. Monáe. But to listen to The Electric Lady is to believe once more in the power of music to change the world, even if that world is a thousand years in the future. "What an Experience" indeed.
"Electric Lady" with its nearly 20 songs is again a thoroughly creative endeavor. It has interludes that intertwine between songs that while not essential, I figure over time to experience "Electric Lady", it will come with new awakenings. Again there are several different styles and genres of music. Immediately, the neo-soul mid tempo pseudo ballads strike a chord. "Can't Live Without Your Love", Dorothy Dandridge" and "What an Experience", all near the end of the album, are quite beautiful. The first single, "Q.U.E.E.N" and "Ghetto Woman" create a different feel.
While "The Arch Android Experience" didn't exactly set sales records, its wonderful to see how "Electric Lady" shows tremendous growth in several different international territories. La Monae seems to have cleverly avoided any sophomore jinx some three years after she first hit the scene. I and probably many more of her core fans are rooting for a Gold or even Platinum album. The lady creatively deserves it. Like Annie Lennox's "Diva", "Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band" and/or albums like Grace Jones' "Warm Leatherette", the concept album is in fine health.
Top reviews from other countries
If you are thinking about moving into Janelle's world, and allowing her into yours, get this cracking album. You will pleasantly pass hours and hours getting all of Janelle's gifts into and around your mind.
(BTW: I am an old Tamla Motown fan of a mere 65 years of age, and Janelle "speaks" directly with me just as she does with people one third of my age. Janelle's quality defeats age!)
There are a number of high profile guest artists but all of these are just a bit of garnish and to be honest the songs would have been just as good without them. Looking forward to seeing what she does next.
Even the little spoken word links work for me, which is rare enough. Janelle deserves to be huge, but it's wonderful that she and her band don't compromise - a little bit quirky, a little bit 'other', it might keep them away from the mainstream but it lifts them towards genius at times.
Thank Ms Monae for restoring my faith in music.