In today’s pop market of high gloss production and “pop by numbers” tracks, its rare to see a true artistic visionary like Janelle Monae. Her debut album, 2010’s The Arch-Android, was a true work of art that showed off her eclectic musical palette, as well as a truly imaginative concept. The album served as parts 2 and 3 of the narrative of Cindy Mayweather and the dystopian future of “Metropolis.” Since then, fans have been anxious for the story’s exciting conclusion, and more importantly, more of Monae’s inventive music!
Although we were treated to a light snack with Janelle’s guest feature on fun.’s hit, “We Are Young,” she has finally returned with the first course from her upcoming sophomore album! The single is called Q.U.E.E.N., and features her new bestie, Eyrka Badu. Apparently, the song’s title stand for something….but Monae isn’t telling. It doesn’t really matter anyway. This hypnotic little jam speaks for itself!
Q.U.E.E.N is exactly what you’d expect from Janelle Monae, which is to say…the unexpected. The song begins with a foreboding baseline. It’s dark and ominous, but too funky to resist! You’ll find yourself instantly snapping along to the groove!
The track soon flourishes into an landscape of sound that combines classic funk and soul with the slick production of the 23rd century. Here, the vintage and the cutting edge are combines seamlessly. Jazz trumpets accent a hip-hop beat. Monae’s soulful voice is tinged in synthesizers and vocal filters, giving the song a taste of modern RnB. Throw in an orchestral string section and a rap verse, and you have yourself a true dynamo of a song.
Being a fan of Monae since The Chase, I’m particularly please to see Janelle being a presence in the music herself, rather than playing a character. Her lyrics are much more personal this time, apparently being based on conversations she’s had with Eryka Badu. What exactly were those conversations about? This too is secret, but the lyrics are a powerful ode to self discovery and identity. This is probably the most personal song we’ve heard from Janelle, and will hopefully be a continuing theme on her album.
Luckily, the lyrics also continue the “Metropolis” narrative. In act 1, Cindy was on the run for breaking a sacred law: androids must never fall in love with humans. Through acts 2 and 3, she began to explore her own self awareness and the concept of love, eventually rising up as the Christ like heroine of Metropolis. In Q.U.E.E.N., we can see Cindy fully embrace her own consciousness with bold resolution.
Janelle Monae’s vision continues forward with one of her best song’s yet. This bombastic display of funk is an excellent lead in to The Electric Lady, which promises to expand her artistic vision to truly colossal proportions.
Final Score: 5/5