Janelle's right on the Monae
The Electric Lady
(Bad Boy Records)
There may be the best part of four months left before year-end, so discussing best albums of 2013 may be a tad premature, but if there's one album that's bound to be in the reckoning, it's this sprawling, audacious masterpiece from Janelle Monae.
Her 2010 debut, The ArchAndroid, showcased her boundless self-confidence, but here she goes several steps further – shoehorning a vast array of styles, genres and influences into a lengthy album based, at least in part, on her Ziggy Stardust-like creation, a space android called Cindi Mayweather.
The 27-year-old from Kansas City is equally comfortable zinging from chamber pop to soul and from R&B to funk but the default setting remains the same, irrespective of genre: overdrive.
Some may be put off by Monae's maximalist approach – this is one lady who has little truck with subtlety – but for those who admire musicians with bags of chutzpah, a la Kanye West, The Electric Lady ticks all the boxes.
There are plenty of guests too. Erykah Badu excels on the female-empowerment showstopper Q.U.E.E.N. while Prince – an early supporter and an icon with whom she is sometimes compared – struts his stuff on the compelling Givin Em What They Love.
At 19 tracks, the album feels over-long and there are a handful of skippable moments – but even on her weaker tracks, Monae has more to offer than several of her peers.
Key tracks: Q.U.E.E.N.; Givin Em What They Love