This lady is a star, a star in the most classic sense, the kind of star ‘they’ don’t ‘make’ anymore. The first thing you learn about Janelle MonÃ¡e on this record is that she will try anything, and probably pull it off. The Kansas native deftly hops genres throughout the seventy minutes, taking in pyschedelic pop, funk, R’n’B, folk, rock and roll and hip-hop along the way. The album is grounded in classic soul and funk and things get off to a manic start as songs flow into each other, one uptempo dance number after another. We’re five songs in before things slow down for a second with the grand sixties folk of ‘Sir Greendown’. Of course it is only for a second before Cold War races back into action, the adrenaline flowing unchecked once again.
While the music is diverse, Monae’s voice is the focal point on which the album hangs, easily drawing together the disparate styles with her joyful, lively vocals. From the clipped rapping of ‘Dance or Die’, through the almost pastoral pop of ‘Oh Maker’ to the scat funk of ‘Tightrope’, her range and execution is unblemished and emotional, combining note-hitting perfection with a good dose of rambunctious soul. This record is not an easy one to comprehend, such is the scope and size of the music contained within it. The first couple of listens are required just try and figure out what is going on in this futuristic wonderland that the young singer has created. Every repeat listen though will yield a little more funky goodness, a melody here, a bass line there, that will continue to draw you deeper and deeper into its world.