From the first spaghetti western guitar twang she delivers in the opener "Suite IV: Electric Overture," to the intergalactic organ employed on the final track “What An Experience,” Janelle Monáe’s The Electric Lady is one of the most entertaining compilations this year. Then again, what else did we really expect? Especially when it comes with a Prince feature, Diddy and Big Boi executive production, and a promotional campaign that included an impomptu dance number atop David Letterman’s desk.
And for the most part, critics dug it, causing words like “freakadelic” and “radical” to be used in reviews.
“Monáe holds it together through sheer force of freakadelic will and a radical feminist's sense of self-exploration.”—Rolling Stone
“Force” and “talent” have been thrown around a lot, too.
"Monáe supervises and synthesizes a parade of golden touchstones (Sly, Stevie, Marvin) into a show-stopping display of force and talent. And at the heart of it, she embeds some of the most personal pain she's allowed to leak into her music.”—Pitchfork
People loved the range.
“Its styles span in time from before 1985′s coming-of-age film The Breakfast Club to Power 105.1′s morning talk show “The Breakfast Club.”—Idolator
And, sure, some were nitpicking dicks.
“Monae's talent seems diluted by variety. It's hard to tell where the human is. One minute she's pushing quiet storm R&B ("It's Code,") the next she and her band are doing lounge music ("Suite V: Electric Overture").”—Los Angeles Times
But the good definitely outweighed the bad.
“Monáe doesn't disappoint her fans. Anyone who dreams she's a black Morrissey weaving an Afro-Futurist allegory on cracking open the closet will treasure the girlish playfulness of "Givin' Em What They Love" ("She followed me back to the lobby / Yeah she was looking at me for some undercover love") and "Dance Apocalyptic" ("Smoking in the girls' room / Kissing friends").”—SPIN
“The Electric Lady pinballs from one expertly rendered musical imitation to another: everything from smooth Delfonics-like soul on It's Code, to sultry pre-rock'n'roll torch song on Look Into My Eyes, to Dorothy Dandridge Eyes' sharp rendering of slick late-70s jazz-funk and the noirish film themes found on two instrumental "suites".—The Guardian
Following Monáe’s 2010 full-length release, The Archandroid, The Electric Lady had big shoes to fill, both in its songwriting and its sci-fi storytelling. And while nothing will ever be quite as vivid as that shiny memory you have of being introduced to Cindi Mayweather for the first time, she does a damn good job at keeping the electricity going.
Janelle Monáe's The Electric Lady is available now wherever music is sold.