Hey, remember this?!? Pretty fucked up that I was working on a Top 19 Albums of the 2010s list and I only made it to 12, right? So I didn’t complete the list by the end of 2019? I knew I wouldn’t. I’m still going to finish. I had that whole “ten most influential albums” detour that I actually did finish. Tough to write about anything else when you’re writing about Prince every day for three months and counting, but I can still pull this off. The best stuff is yet to come. I can’t abort the list when it’s starting to get fun. Plus, the masses have been dying for more, or that’s what I keep telling myself. Catch up on anything you missed in the Top 19 countdown by clicking the links below:
#19: New Amerykah Pt. 2 – Erykah Badu
#18: Lemonade – Beyonce
#15: Choose Your Weapon – Hiatus Kaiyote
#13: Stone Rollin’ – Raphael Saadiq
#12: We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service – A Tribe Called Quest
#11: The Electric Lady – Janelle Monae
“Givin Em What They Love” feat. Prince.
That’s track two on Janelle Monae’s fantastic second full length album, The Electric Lady. Upon seeing that in 2013 my first question was this: Who the fuck is Janelle Monae? My second question: What has she done to earn the coveted “feat. Prince” on a track? Surely she must be something special to have a track on her album get the rare purple treatment. I better listen to this album.
Not sure why my initial reaction to seeing Prince’s name on someone else’s album was anger and doubt. I was fully prepared to hear this album and say, “I knew it. She’s not worthy of Prince.” What does that say about me? Not sure, but I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong. When I lent The Electric Lady my skeptical ear I was stunned. Not only was her music a breath of fresh air, Janelle Monae actually sounded to me like someone capable of taking the baton from Prince and running with it.
I feel the need to address the elephant in the room now. How did it take me until 2013 to discover Janelle Monae? Honestly, I don’t know. In the early 2010’s I was working full-time and chasing three little ones around my house. Somehow her debut album, The Archandroid, had come and gone in 2010 and I knew little to nothing about it. It wasn’t until I read somewhere – I don’t remember where – that Prince appeared on her second album that I took notice. Of course I’m familiar with The Archandroid now. The popular opinion seems to be that’s her best album. I disagree, even though “Tightrope” is one of my favorite songs of the century. Not sure what I’m missing otherwise, but it’s my least favorite of her three full length albums, and if I’m being completely honest, I haven’t given her first EP, Metropolis, much of a chance. I just don’t feel her early stuff like I do her last two albums. Someone will have to walk me through Archandroid and prove me wrong.
One reason I love The Electric Lady is that there’s a little bit of everything on it. There’s a song for every mood. Monae’s versatility is on full display. She can be fun, badass, sexy, politically conscious, and introspective at the same time. I could continue at great length about Janelle Monae, but…SPOILER ALERT…she’ll appear on this list again. Probably sometime in 2023 when I get around to finishing this list. I’ll save the good material for then.
I legitimately love several tracks on this album, but the title track is my favorite. A perfect party song. For some reason I hear a hint of Mark Morrison’s infectious “Return of the Mack” somewhere in it. Maybe it’s the tempo. I can’t not smile when that song comes on. It’s got a dope video, too, except for the regrettable first minute that oddly turns in to a Samsung ad.
Janelle Monae is an electric performer but she’s also versatile. She can bust a rhyme when the song calls for it. On Q.U.E.E.N. after a few verses of singing and an appearance from another queen, Erykah Badu, she displays her skills.
Yeah, keep singing and I’ma keep writing songs
I’m tired of Marvin asking me, What’s Going On?
March to the streets cause I’m willing and I’m able
Categorize me, I defy every label
And while you’re selling dope, we’re gonna keep selling hope
We rising up now, you gotta deal you gotta cope
Will you be electric sheep?
Electric ladies, will you sleep?
Or will you preach?
Favorite Slow Jam/Chill Song
PrimeTime was simply one of the best slow jams of the decade. Another brilliant guest appearance, this time by Miguel. At this point you might think Monae went a bit heavy on the guest appearances on this album, but that’s about it, really. Esperanza Spalding also shows up on one track. I think that’s about it. It’s not an album full of features, but she picked her spots well.
Ring Walk Song
I’ll go back to the beginning of the album on this one. Givin Em What They Love bangs, and Prince’s vocals and guitar just add to it. This song is badass funk from start to finish and is definitely a song to get you hyped up.
Favorite Happy Song
Can a song about the apocalypse be happy? Yes, if you take Prince’s “party like it’s 1999” concept and crank up the tempo. Dance Apocalyptic is four minutes of insane energy.
Song I’d Play if I Was DJing
If you didn’t glean this information from what I said above, the answer is The Electric Lady. I’ve played this song at every party I’ve had since this album was released. That only means three parties, but still. I play this every time. There are plenty of other candidates on this album, which is what makes it so great. The second half of the album chills out a bit, but any song on the first record works.
6th Man Award
I’m gonna go back to the guest artists on this album. Prince. Erykah Badu. Miguel. Esperanza Spalding. Solange. That’s an all-star team. Few, if any, can boast about a list of guest artists that loaded. Did I mention Prince? Yes, I did.
Well, it took me the better part of a year, but I’ve made it to the Top 10. The #10 album on the list comes to us from one of the 6th Man Award winners from The Electric Lady. She’ll be the first artist on this list to make a second appearance. Back with #10 someday…