You are not the same genius as Janelle Monáe. Well, most of you aren’t. Don’t feel ashamed because you can be quite a genius, creating awesome music/art/insight/science and still not be her level of genius. What you do with your genius is another thing entirely. Your raw skills may be less than hers, but you can outdo her … if she slips up and does something sub-par. If genius were a marathon, you should feel perfectly comfortable watching Janelle Monáe finish a half mile ahead of you. Being that close to her is something to be proud of. Now that I’ve successfully insulted you and/or praised Janelle Monáe, let’s move on.
Once upon a time, 2007 to be exact, Monáe put out an EP Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase) that served as the first installment in a multi-suite concept based on the movie Metropolis and an android named Cindi Mayweather. I didn’t listen to it for the story so I can’t evaluate it effectively. But the music? It was a refreshing dose of peppy genius, filled with songs that hung together well without sounding the same. Three years later (2007 + 3 = 2010), she released suites II and III of the story as The ArchAndroid, a truly spectacular wide-ranging demonstration of Prince-like virtuosity and talent. In this album, she proved she could not only hold her own in R&B but in other neighboring genres. She could take her musical ideas and performance to any niche and kick their ass. OK, I don’t know how she’d hold up against polka stars or death metal, but you get the point: she’s great.
Now, all these years later, we have Metropolis Suites IV and V in her second full length album The Electric Lady
Is it amazing? Yes, in place, many places. It is not completely amazing in every place. The review I heard on Sound Opinions describes it best as an example of a musical genius working without editing. Many of her ideas are spectacular, but, with no one there to critique it, some not-so-awesome material gets added in. The last third of the album bores me or annoys me, other than “Sally Ride” which, I swear quotes Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”. But, with 19 tracks, there’s still an ordinary full length album left over even without the dross of those little TV-soundtrack jazzy songs. However, “Giving Em What They Love”, “Q.U.E.E.N.”, and “Dance Apocalyptic” are amazing examples of funky layered danceable awesomeness. Half as good as these songs is still twice as good as most other songs. An otherwise average song “Ghetto Woman” includes Monáe’s touching energetic rap about her mother and her childhood. The album is further sprinkled with skits, little scripted pieces that usually annoy me but I actually love. In the banter, there’s a kind of non-musical rhythm that provides a kind of between-song punctuation, a 90 second comma.
Overall, yes I’m disappointed but with judicious editing possible only with digital files, I can cut this down to an even dozen of good/great songs. What would Monáe think? I don’t know. She’s the genius. I’m just a listener with less-than-genius taste. I’m sure she’ll get over it.