Music | Album Review
Provocative. Seductive. Uncensored. Monáe brings us "The Age of Pleasure", a half-hour blend of dreamy afro-jazz fusion that’s on the edge of sex on the beach.
Our introduction to pleasure arrives at "Float", a track that is anything but relaxed and buoyant. Monáe rather dives beneath the surface of her identity with stylish confidence, broadcasting their transformation, and carefree persona, all while asserting seductive charm. "Float's" pace is moving, uplifting if you will, courtesy of the triumphant horns provided by Seun Kuti and the Egypt80 band.
Just look at this glow
I got that magic, I'm really prepared for whatever
Whenever so who want the smoke?
Came back from the future to take all
And take all y'all hoes
They said I was bi, yeah, baby
I'm by a whole nother coast.
She stay in the hills, he stay in Atlanta
I paid for them both.
On the album's third track, we quickly transcend from a luxurious trap vibe to an Afro-Caribbean essence. "Black Sugar Beach" is just over a minute long acting more as a transition within the project, not to mention we encounter these short-lived moments multiple times throughout "The Age of Pleasure".
While the transitions smoothly carry us along, it also seems to lack substance -- background music in a way. A variation of the previous track "Champagne Shit" it carries the same hushed airy vocals but is placed over Afro-influent percussion.
"I'm looking at a thousand versions of myself and we're all fine as fuck".
Janelle Monáe and Doechii are truly phenomenal women in their sensual collaboration. Whether or not the two women drew inspo from Maya Angelou's world renowned poem, "Phenomenal", similarly it celebrates a woman's physique; both inside and out.
"Bitch say it to my face. How you feel? Phenomenal."
We hear this bar repeatedly throughout, as the two artists bask in self-worth over an infectious bass line.
Midway through the album we arrive at "Lipstick Lover". Initially released ahead of the project it was accompanied by a music video that was NSFW in all the right ways (at least in my opinion).
We encounter women of all ages, shapes, and sizes, at their rawest and most vulnerable. Cherries, neck kisses and sex toys are also thrown into the mix. In an interview with Apple Music’s Zach Lowe, Monáe explains the inspiration behind the intimate drive of “Lipstick Lover”.
“Why didn’t I write this song years ago…Because if you know me… I’m always in red lipstick," they said. "And there have been so many instances where I’ve made out with somebody at a party, and it’s dark.”
Monáe continued, “Nobody notices it. But when the lights come on, whoever I’ve made out with, lipstick all over their face. And then I’ve also been on the receiving end of a human…who’s so attractive. … Or I’ll get home, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I have lipstick all over my face”.
The sexual tension continues on tracks like "Rush" and "Water Slide". Monáe indulges in a love that is passionate, with both direct and metaphorical references of her type of bedroom action.
As a non-binary artist, Monáe doesn't hesitate to display their varying love interests throughout the project. On "Champagne Shit", she alludes to encounters with women, whereas "Water Slide", hints at a masculine admiration. "Float" makes direct references to both genders.
As the album concludes the energy begins to taper off from the energetic, blithe, party-esque imagery, and we find Monae in a personalized zone; almost as if she is singing directly to a specific person.
"A Dry Red", the final track, is completely stripped of the horns and dance-inducing beats we encountered throughout the album. It's just Monae and a guitar as if that's how it was meant to be. Drinking tea, smoking wine, and long shower love.
Janelle Monáe carved her lane within the industry through her genre-bending styles, complex productions, along with political and social commentary within her lyrics. The Age of Pleasure isn’t as intricate but it doesn’t take away from their artistry.
I think this album was designed for the fan's enjoyment but more so for an internal release Monáe has been harboring for some time.
The Age of Pleasure North American tour is set to kick off on August 30, in Seattle, Washington.