"I want to redefine beauty and goals for young women," Janelle Monáe told Rolling Stone. "It's about breaking down stereotypes, fighting against oppression, trying to save the world."
Not everyone would agree that Monáe is the number one, no-question, absolute best artist making music in America these days. But those who disagree clearly haven't heard her new album, The Electric Lady, which went on sale yesterday. The album jumps between musical styles, from R&B and rock to hip-hop and jazz, and incorporates artists from Prince to Solange Knowles to Esperanza Spalding to create a fabulous, over-the-top feel. As Monáe told MTV: "It is to encourage a million electric ladies to build and come into existence, and 'electric lady' does not have a particular skin color or hair texture but our communality is community and wanting to nurture the community and knowing that we have to be the change."
Monáe herself describes the album as "undefinable." But music critics who have taken on the task have found all sorts of ways to define The Electric Lady: it's "the shining pop future," it captures Monáe's "X factor-style," it is a "futuristic tableau rooted in a terre firme earthiness that suggests deep ties to prog-funkers Sun Ra and P. Funk."
Whatever it is, you can listen to the complete new shining-pop-X-Factor-future-tableau album for free—it's streaming right here. Monae's first album, The ArchAndroid, was equally critically aclaimed, but only sold 186,000 copies. That's criminal. So if you have the cash, consider buying a copy.