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‘Electric Lady’ a career milestone

Recording artist Janelle Monae recently released her second studio album, “The Electric Lady.” The release is Monae’s first in three years.

In May of 2010, when Monae released her debut entitled “ArchAndroid,” it was met with much critical and commercial acclaim.

The album wowed, which made it all the more surprising when Monae seemed to go on an unannounced three-year hiatus before the release of this month’s “Electric Lady.”

Time has had no ill effect on Monae’s music, however. She has once again managed to earn the adoration of critics and fans alike.

Monae has kept some things the same. Her music is as whimsical and woozy as ever. There is something about Monae’s music (and look) that is otherworldly while somehow simultaneously classic.

“Electric Lady” is far more honest than “ArchAndroid.” It’s on the ballads which border on gospel, — but only if the church they originated from were on another planet in the year 3000 — when Monae’s lyrics are their most poignant, and their most brilliant.

Monae continues to surprise with her ability to write lyrics that can cut as quickly and sharply as a knife.

Monae’s first album was very heavily a study of psychedelic funk and she takes more risks with “Electric Lady.” Songs like “Q.U.E.E.N.” seem to harken straight from 1970s discotheques while others — “Give ‘Em What They Love,” and the title track “Electric Lady” — range from sounding a lot like late ’70s Southern rock to ’90s R&B.

Monae has done something over the course of her two albums that not too many artists these days do — she has created a strong concept album that is as fun to listen for the sheer creativity of the world built as it is for the quality of the music.

Monae’s universe is futuristic and friendly, a virtual haven for “the other” in society. Monae has taken the outsider, the listener, on a journey and the payoff is extremely rewarding.

Electric Lady comes in two versions: a traditional 14-track album and an expanded exclusive 19-track LP. It’s easy to see why this album took Monae the better part of three years to make. It’s masterful, and maybe even a masterpiece.

Even if it’s not her magnum opus (Monae is still too new in her career for her best work to be decided), there’s no doubt that “Electric Lady” marks a milestone in her career.

Rating: A