It wouldn’t be a huge exaggeration to call Janelle Monáe’s sophomore album, The Electric Lady (* * * * out of four), a summation of decades of musical innovation and female empowerment. Drawing inspiration from sources as diverse as Dorothy Dandridge and Quentin Tarantino, she has crafted a celebration of womanhood that expands on the scope of her debut, The ArchAndroid.
Monáe’s voice is key to her versatility, a clear, sharp soprano that can convey passion, playfulness and pique. On the title track, she welds it over airy synth, funky horns and wailing guitar. Prince lends his shivery falsetto to Givin’ Em What They Love, a fierce tease that erupts into a delirious funk-rock workout.
Taking her cues from the past, Monáe looks to the future with dexterity and daring.