Janelle Monae, who’s coming off two very successful performances at Coachalla, has had it with any of your preconceived notions about her, whether it’s because she’s a woman or because she’s black or which god she does or doesn’t believe in, or for any other reason you want to throw at her. Save your time.
There’s a confidence, swagger and attitude on her new single, "Q.U.E.E.N." that Monae has previously kept hidden, or maybe all her success from the past few years has brought a new boldness, either way, it’s ferocious.
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“Q.U.E.E.N,” featuring Erykah Badu plays like a travelogue through modern soul music. It starts with a guitar groove that’s all old school Parliament and Prince, so angular and funky that it’s almost impossible to sit still. Monae questions “the price of fame” and “if she’s a freak for getting down,” as she weighs how women are judged on such different criteria than men. Do you think the “twerk” comment is about Miley Cyrus and her recent twerking video?
The five-minute song then moves into a middle segment that feels a little like Janet Jackson during her fiercest “Miss Jackson” days, before segueing into a jazzy interlude with a Miles Davis-sounding horn sample, finger-snapping and percussion.
The song, which Monae says came from a conversation she and Badu actually had, ends up with the ladies demanding to know if all of us Electric Ladies we will “sleep or will you preach.” The answer is clearly “Preach.”
The song is from Monae’s forthcoming album, “The Electric Lady,” her first set since 2010’s “The ArchAndroid.”