Five long years had passed since the excellent “Dirty Computer”the record that closed the excellent trilogy that completed “The ArchAndroid” y “The Electric Lady” and said goodbye forever to Cindi Mayweather. Now Janelle Monáe returns with his fourth job, “The Age Of Pleasure”, his work, curiously more impersonal and less varied.
Curiously, now that she has left behind that android that could fit Prince, Bowie, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Outkast or Janet Jackson, Monáe sticks to the pleasures of the body and forgets about the mind, in a shorter album and with fewer styles than we were used to, focusing on reggae and disco, and delivering their less essential collection of songs. A good album, yes, what happens is that coming from the author of “The ArchAndroid” y “Dirty Computer” sounds like a small disappointment.
“Float”, the first advance, opens the album with the horns at the helm of Seun Kuti and Egypt 80, who will be very protagonists throughout the album, as well as self-confidence and songs about liberation and pleasure, mainly the only track on the appropriately titled , “The Age Of Pleasure”. With a reggae and relaxed tone, Janelle floats like water, another very important element throughout the album, with the singer endorsing Bruce Lee’s philosophy of having no form and melting into the environment, “be water, my friend” . In the end, the song ends like one of those torrid slow jamz, making it clear that sensuality and meat are going to be key to the album.
follows her “Champagne Shit”, with a funky riff over a reggae beat, as Janelle half sings, half raps, over the omnipresent horns. A song not defined by the form or the chorus but by the groove. Something that continues with the first of the musical interludes, “Black Sugar Beach”, with the winds in the foreground. next comes “Phenomenal” that makes it clear that it has been heard “Renaissance” of Beyoncé countless times. It’s the most track-oriented song on the album, although it falls a bit short, sounding more like a discard from that album than the ‘disco-breaking jitazo’ it aspires to be.
“Haute” continues along the same paths as the previous one, Janelle feels sexy and reflects it in a song, again, with some horns in the foreground, risque but short on the chorus. She ends in a breath and gives way to another of the intermissions, a calm reggae over which Grace Jones recites in French over some sensual strings. The reggae rhythm picks up a bit to “Lipstick Lover”, the second advance of the disc. It looked like it was going to be the invitation to Janelle’s hot party but it turns out it was the most interesting song on the record.
In “The Rush” He sings again about the pleasures of the flesh, he does it wonderfully in a song that, in sound and spirit, could have appeared on the latest Kali Uchis album and that has a great contribution by Amaarae. “The French 75” It is the last of the intermissions on the album, an approach to dancehall that takes us to another of the high points of the album, “Water Slide”, a song where Janelle finds herself so fuckable she would do it to herself. Under a Jamaican rhythm, she makes comparisons between sex and water. Finally, a highly choreable chorus. The wonderful harmonies at the end also remind us of a Janelle with the widest sights.
The best of “Know Better” is the sax line throughout the entire song (along with the rest of the horns with a lot of Afro Beat flavor), another theme about low passions cooked at a slow pace. “Paid In Pleasure” it’s not a particularly memorable song on a half-hour record, something that hadn’t happened before on much longer works. Of course, we forgive him when another of the best songs on the album appears, “Only Have Eyes 4 2”, again to the rhythm of reggae, but also with an eye on R&B and the doo wop of the fifties, Janelle singing wonderfully making reference to the mythical “I Only Have Eyes For You” from The Flamingos. Here the harmonies are heavenly, what a great singer he continues to be.
The disc closes with “A Dry Red”, an acoustic song that shows us that this artist is much broader than what this album offers, a more closed work in terms of influences; Nigerian winds, Caribbean sounds and disco music; in which, for the first time, Monáe does not sound essential. It’s not a bad album by any means, but a seven after two A’s and a notable high tastes like little…