Photo: Mason Rose

Janelle Monaé – Age of Pleasure 

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Did you think Janelle Monaé was kidding when she promised that she’ll be introducing us to the age of pleasure with her upcoming album? Kicking off this new era with the confidence-inducing track “Float” is probably her way of telling us that she will be hitting the ball out of the park. In fact, she literally said “I don’t step, I don’t walk, I don’t dance, I just float” with this record. Age of Pleasure is Monaé as we’ve never heard her before: confident, fun, crazy, and oh-so-sexy.

Following on the heels of “Float” is “Lipstick Lover” – a single accompanied by a provocative music video that had to be age-restricted on platforms. It was the first introduction to how pleasurable the album will be, and it was signed with a red kiss from Monaé – a penny if you can guess where she placed the kiss.

Age of Pleasure is the fourth studio album from Monaé and follows her 2018 critically acclaimed project, Dirty Computer. Even though it’s composed of thirteen tracks, the overall play time is just barely over thirty minutes. This is because five songs on the album are only a minute long, and “Ooh la la,” featuring Grace Jones, is a mere thirty-five seconds long. Age of Pleasure derives influences from afrobeat and reggae, as Monaé sought to make music that will appeal to her core audience. Her mission was to make a body of work “so specific to this Pan-African crowd who are my friends.” She also said, “I want it to be a love letter to the diaspora.” And she achieved her goal in every meaning and interpretation of the word. From the drums to the horns to the strings, the songs truly embody elements of Afrobeat and reggae you can’t define the album without including these two genres.

As for the rest of the songs on the album, they’re a combo of “Float’s” braggadocio and “Lipstick Lover’s” erotic delight, making for a restricted message, even though it’s marketed as Monaé’s most free album till date. For example, in “Champagne Shit,” she sings, “I like all my kisses french / When I’m on my champagne shit / Everybody turnin’ round takin’ them pics / ‘Cause I’m on my champagne shit / And I’m throwin’ them tips,” and in “Haute,” she sings, “They say I look good (Good) / They say I look haute (Haute) / They say I look pretty (Pretty) / Can’t tell me I’m not / I’m feelin’ so sexy (So sexy), mmm.” It doesn’t need any stretch of the imagination to think that both lyrics might have been pulled from the same song.

If I’m grading this album for consistency, it’ll be the most consistent album that the Dirty Computer and The Electric Lady hitmaker has made. And yet you must forgive me for saying that it’s too consistent. If you’re the type to get turned on by songs, then I see this album working to its full advantage. If not, it works better on the dancefloor. However, “Float” is on the record, so…

Monaé collaborated with several African artists on the album, including “Love Nwantiti’s” CKay, Amaarae, and Seun Kuti.