Liner Note Author: Max Stellings.
Photographer: Marc Baptiste.
Prince, Erykah Badu, Esperanza Spalding, Solange, and Miguel contribute to the fourth and fifth Metropolis suites, but it's not as if Janelle Mon e and her Wondaland associates were short on creative energy. Equally as detailed and as entertaining as The ArchAndroid, The Electric Lady likewise is a product of overactive imaginations and detailed concept engineering, and it also plays out like a sci-fi opera-slash-variety program with style and era-hopping galore. Suite four is the album's busier and more ostentatious half, more star-studded and less focused, highlighted by the bopping "Dance Apocalyptic" and the strutting Badu duet "Q.U.E.E.N." Suite five is considerably stronger with a handful of firmly R&B-rooted gems. The inspiration for its overture is noted in the liners as "Stevie Wonder listening to Os Mutantes on vinyl (circa 1973)," but shades of Stevie's '70s work are heard later in more obvious ways. "Ghetto Woman" is impeccably layered soul-funk, fluid and robust at once, with chunky percussion and synthesizer lines bounding about as Mon e delivers a performance as proud and as powerful as Stevie's "Black Man." It contains an autobiographical 30-second verse that is probably swift and dense enough to make early supporter Big Boi beam with pride. The enraptured liquid glide of "Dorothy Dandridge Eyes," featuring Spalding, recalls "I Can't Help It," co-written by Stevie for Michael Jackson's Off the Wall. Earlier, on "It's Code," Mon e channels the yearning Jackson 5-era MJ. "Can't Live Without Your Love," presumably a paean to human love interest Anthony Greendown has Mon e -- or Cindi Mayweather, aka Electric Lady Number One -- yearning like never before. The album is sure to astound Mon e's sci-fi/theater-geek following. Its second half cannot be denied by those who simply value creative R&B that owes to the past and sounds fresh. Anyone can appreciate the phenomenal interludes, which are close to 3 Feet High and Rising level. Power-up to the Droid Rebel Alliance and the Get-Free Crew indeed. ~ Andy Kellman