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CD review: Janelle Monáe’s ‘The Electric Lady’

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Annie Zaleski

Three and a half stars

Kaskade Atmosphere

Besides boosting her reputation, Janelle Monáe’s stately appearance on Fun.’s mega-smash “We Are Young” seems to have influenced her second album. Although the record is no less diverse (or android-focused) than her previous work, it’s far more subdued and less self-consciously weird. That’s both a good and a bad thing. Much of The Electric Lady’s second half focuses on ornate R&B tunes—the schmaltzy ’70s soul number “It’s Code,” Bond theme-caliber “Look Into My Eyes” and a standout, the Esperanza Spalding-featuring “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes”—that let Monáe show off her lovely honeyed voice. Those songs can be sleepy, however, and they pale in comparison to an energetic front half, which boasts collaborations with Prince (on the nasty funk-rock sear “Givin Em What They Love”), Solange (the TLC-like title track) and Erykah Badu (freak-flag-encouraging anthem “Q.U.E.E.N.”). In the end, only a lack of consistency keeps The Electric Lady from achieving transcendence.

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