The Deal: Hotly-hyped artist releases much-awaited debut disc.
The Good: R&B/funk/soul/rock artist Janelle Monáe has gotten a lot of attention for her live performances, leading to hot anticipation for her debut, full-length CD. After an orchestral introduction, the CD kicks off with "Dance or Die," a track – like many on the disc – that sounds like a '50s-infused Outkast that slides right into "Faster." The two Suite Overture's featured here are follow-ups to her debut EP, Metropolis: The Chase Suite. Instead of an album that can be played sporadically, it's better heard in one sitting – though at 70 minutes, that's not easy. Songs show her vocal depth and diversity as much as the music – funk one minute, soul the next, Monáe is offering something more spoken word in one moment before racing up and down in her range. While things slow down for "Sir Greenwood" and "Oh, Maker," they quickly jump back up "Cold War" and the first single, "Tightrope." Monáe does show her frantic side during "Come Alive," and "Mushrooms and Roses" is as psychedelic as you might expect.
The Bad: Not near as good as her live show, some of that energy and excitement is missing.
The Verdict: Her visual performance is a mix of old-school rock and soul and something out of the James Brown playbook. With this disc, you'd never guess it. There are some highlights here, but overall it's not what I hoped for. Monáe will be in town with Lilith Fair in August.
Atlantic. Release date: May 18, 2010