Likes: Locked Inside, Tightrope, Dance or Die & Neon Valley Street
Overall: There’s artistic value (unique writing/musical production), but the concept of the album is annoyingly difficult to understand
Janelle Monae’s debut album is a futuristic, quirky project, somewhat reminiscent in sound of “The Love Below” by Andre 3000 and Solange’s “Sol-Angel and the Hadley Street Dreams.” A concept album centered on romance and taking initiative to make positive societal change, the album blends a bevy of genres, from classical, to R&B/funk, to electronica. The best thing about this album is that it makes use of live instruments, its multi-genre, and that it has topics of substance. The downside of this album is that it’s incredibly difficult to understand the concept because a huge portion of the lyrics are metaphoric and abstract. There’s a space/planetary theme and humans are “droids,” I think. It shouldn’t be a guessing game when you’re listening to an album. That’s the most frustrating aspect. I had to read the lyrics a couple of times to just GRASP it. Furthermore, it’s tied to her EP “Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase).” An album shouldn’t be so connected to a prior project that the listener HAS TO hear the prior in order to understand the current. I eventually understood everything; the keyword being eventually. If you’re looking for simple or smooth material, this is not the album for you. As far as Monae’s vocals are concerned, I like them. I think she has a beautiful, smooth voice, but she doesn’t make as much use of it as she should.
What I appreciated most about this album was the old-school soul influence (especially on the song “Tightrope”) and the orchestral segways in-between tracks. I got half-way through the album before I became fatigued by its abstract nature and all the electronica. This is definitely an album I have to be in the mood for to listen to. If you’re looking for something unusual, new or unorthodox, pick this album up.