Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady
Janelle Monae’s The Electric Lady comes with an impressive list of collaborators – Prince, Solange, Erykah Badu, and an equally impressive array of influences. Part soul, part gospel, part do-wop, the record skips between influences like a kid at a candy store, picking an idea up only to discard it a track later. Similarly, the artwork simultaneously references Motown girl-groups, and 70s futurism – but to what end?
The Electric Lady fits in with a trend of pop maximalism that’s in thrall to the 70s, from Justin Timberlake’s two part disco opus, Daft Punk’s robo-sheen and Haim’s Fleetwood Mac-isms. But whereas those records, on the whole, backed up their retro aspirations with tunes to match, here the ideas are recalled without the content. There are some nice moments (see the retro-funk of It’s Code), but listening ultimately only makes a case for pop’s past, rather than the present.