Janelle Monáe’s album has been in constant rotation since I got it. The more you listen, the more you hear a wider range of influences. The first impression I got from her EP and her dynamite live shows was 80s New Wave, “Ziggy Stardust” era Bowie and a fuller execution of the fembot ideas behind Brides of Funkenstein.
But her first full length album – which is segmented into three distinct segments – also shows off her Michael Jackson influences, and several other song specific inspirations.
The album starts with a big cinematic score, very reminiscent of how Michael opened his songs with a widescreen symphonic sound, and then the first 7 tracks are dance records, culminating the spectacular Tightrope, which I have to admit I played about 14 times in a row over two days. I’m over it now, but I haven’t put a song on repeat like that in a while.
The second section is a wide range of rock, from 60’s French pop inspired ditty called OH MAKER to a brilliant homage of CRIMSON AND CLOVER called MUSHROOMS AND ROSES. There’s some more Bowie-sounding rock as well as a Prince-ish jam, which slides in the final, mellow part of the album. Here she chills out and gets surprisingly Earthy, with songs you could imagine on a Jill Scott or India.Arie album.
Like Prince, you can name the influences, but she makes it all her own. I can’t imagine what the next single might be, but I don’t think there’s any point of trying to push her on black radio. She’s an Artist, like Bjork, and needs to be treated as such. While I wish Big Boi had produced two more tracks on the album, I enjoy what is there. With 18 songs, there’s definitely a couple of songs that could go to make it a tighter experience, but at this point I’m not sure what might grow on me next.
As a side note, I love having an album that knocks this hard that I can play with my kids in the car. I love having an artist whose videos I can show my kids without worrying about them being too sexualized. Janelle is a beautiful girl, and I’m sure she’ll appear in a dress one day and blow these tramps out of the water, but I like that she doesn’t lean on her looks. But most of all, I can’t wait to hear what she does next. Given the growth between her EP and her first album, she could be well on her way to being Important.