MTV got an exclusive first stream of Janelle Monáe’s fantastic new album, “The Electric Lady,” which will be released on September 10, and I’m embedding here because I can’t actually tell you to run, not walk, to your local record store to purchase it and put it on your stereo immediately.
If you’re reading this site, chances are you’ve already got “The Electric Lady” on your calendar, but if, for some reason, I haven’t convinced you yet, here are four reasons to spend your afternoon with “The Electric Lady” on in the background while you work, and then to buy it so you can give it many close listens afterwards.
1. Whatever Monáe Is Doing Is Almost Always The Most Intriguing Science Fiction Of Any Given Moment: Shortly after the announcement that Peter Capaldi would be playing the 12th Doctor, I joked that the real selection, one who would have solved the show’s profound diversity problems, and more importantly, would have been amazing, should have been Janelle Monáe. Courtney Stanton joked that “she’s too busy actually being a Time Lord to play one on TV,” which is the absolute truth. I’ve written at greater length about Monáe’s ability to create fully-realized worlds and deep mythologies in her albums and music videos, and I’m just ridiculously excited to see how “The Electric Lady’ expands those narratives and explores the ideas she’s already laid out for us. Don’t skip through the skits, which conjure up images like an android nightclub that’s decidedly unfriendly to the bounty hunters coming after Monáe’s science fictional alter ego, the revolutionary Cindy Mayweather.
2. The Best Revenge On Miley Cyrus Would Be To Make “Q.U.E.E.N.” A Gigantic Hit: If you’ve been reading any of the terrific pieces about Cyrus’ performance at the VMAs, particularly Tressie McMillan Cottom’s “When Your (Brown) Body Is A (White) Wonderland,” you’ve probably been thinking about the racialization of young white women’s sexual experimentation, and the consequences for women of color, the reduction of Cyrus’ backup dancers to commodities, paid so she could act out her rebellion and attempt to shock on their bodies, among other things. “Q.U.E.E.N.,” the first single off “The Electric Lady” is about, among other things, twerking, girl-watching, ownership of black culture, Phillip K. Dick, and self-actualization. Showing Cyrus what innovative art and disruptive performance actually looks like, reminding people that Afro-futurism is a thing worth checking out, and making Monáe some money at the same time is a triple mitzvah.
3. The Guest List: Prince. Erykah Badu. Miguel. Solange. Esperanza Spalding. Big Boi. Cee-Lo Green. Do I really need to explain this? Thought not.
4. It’s Just Ridiculously Wide-Ranging: I tend to praise a couple of distinct things about Monáe’s overarching aesthetic sense, but in a way, this album reminds me of “Cee-Lo Green…Is The Soul Machine” in its emotional range. Need to psych yourself up for something difficult? Drop on “Q.U.E.E.N.” Want to sing to someone while being waltzed around the living room? “Primetime” has you covered. Feeling a diva-ish attack of sentimentality? “We Were Rock N’ Roll” is there to be hollered into your hairbrush in front of the mirror. It’s easy to pick one lane and make bangers, or anthems. It takes exceptional self-confidence and skill to pull both off, and to have them work beautifully in a single coherent artistic statement.