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Musician Janelle Monáe


Mason Rose

Album of the Week:

Like »The Age of Pleasure«, i.e. an era of pleasure, the crisis-ridden time in which we live really doesn't seem like one. But maybe that's why it's important to give free rein to hedonism and light-heartedness. In any case, the American singer and actress Janelle Monáe, most recently seen in the Netflix hit »Glass Onion – A Knives Out Mystery«, shows the general doom mood with relish with her first album in five years.

In the video for her single »Lipstick Lover«, which grooves casually in a reggae rhythm, she gives a pool party where she flashes her breasts in a very soaked T-shirt and can be seen almost completely naked at one point. In other scenes of the clip, she cuddles up to a big's butt, and sex toys with cute snapping kissing mouthpieces also play a role. It is the highly erotic, yet deeply relaxed initiation of an, albeit a decidedly queer, feminist and Afrofuturistic one.

A few years ago, the now 37-year-old had already come out as pansexual, in 2022 she declared herself non-binary, but she doesn't seem to take it too seriously. In a recent cover story of »Rolling Stone« magazine, on the cover of which she in turn poses largely freely on top, she jovially described herself as »she/her/they/them... and free-ass motherfucker«.

Freedom in the sense of redemption is also the feeling expressed by the short songs on »Age of Pleasure«, which flow into each other in a good half hour. The sensual, palatable songs, infused with Afrobeats and reggae, South African house sounds and a lot of nineties R&B, were inspired by real pool parties that Monáe hosted during the Covid pandemic in the Californian offshoot of her Wondaland studio, which is actually based in Atlanta. The events became a safe space of lust, but above all of black and queerness, protected from racists and other reactionary forces that are equipping themselves with new power not only in the USA, but everywhere.

Many songs, including the album highlights »Water Slide« and »Float« (with Afrobeat pupil Seun Kuti), also take up the very serious, Afro-diasporic water motif that Barry Jenkins also used in his Oscar film »Moonlight« (in which Monáe had a supporting role): For the descendants of the slaves kidnapped from Africa, learning to swim means re-appropriating the spiritually life-giving element and finding themselves freely and arbitrarily in it. to be able to move: a rebirth. It is not for nothing that Monáe shows herself on the cover of her album as a foolhardy Afro-Ariel.


Janelle Monáe

The Age of Pleasure

approx. 17,99 €

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09.06.2023 14.46 Uhr

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In the past, the Kansas-born singer dressed in high-necked men's suits, staged herself as a Tuxedo android with a lot of homage to role models like Grace Jones - and designed an elaborate, futuristic soul sound on her albums, which in turn earned her comparisons with dazzling pop role models such as Prince and David Bowie.

In the meantime, Monaé has long since become not only a style icon, but also a cultural emancipation figure. With this casually thrown album full of sex grooves, she shows a Beyoncé how to celebrate and appreciate the empowerment story of the queer dance scene without sitting high on the glass "Renaissance" horse. As a party queen, she also learned to let go of her self-imposed perfectionism a little more – and to let her sexuality vibrate freely. This may not necessarily be a musical power trip, but it is a powerful pleasure move. (7.8)

Briefly listened to:

Dudu Tassa & Jonny Greenwood – »Jarak Qaribak«

Radiohead are one of the brave bands that still like to perform in Israel and don't let themselves be fooled by anti-Semitic calls for a BDS boycott. Guitarist Jonny Greenwood is married to Israeli artist Sharona Katan, whose family hails from Egypt and Iraq. He met the Israeli pop star Dudu Tassa many years ago. The creative friendship between the two musicians has now resulted in one of the most interesting albums of the year. »Your neighbor is your friend« is the title of this literally international understanding song collection: Each of the participating singers comes from a different part of the Middle East, each and every one of them performs a traditional song from a foreign country to the Arabic-Western fusion music of Tassa and Greenwood. The greatest is »Ya Anid Ya Yaba«, sung by the Syrian singer Lynn Adib on a compelling rhythm of Greenwood guitar licks, drum machine beats, percussion and oriental-levantine soundscape. Such moments of »Jarak Qaribak« are reminiscent of Greenwood and Thom Yorke's garden bench jam to the Radiohead song »The Numbers«, in which they spin grandiosely on a very similar CR78 drum beat. In the groove of this cool musical dialogue, geographical and political boundaries suddenly become very soft and permeable. (8.5)

Squid – »O Monolith«

Anyone who has been lucky enough to see Squid live in the past two years knows about the talent of this Brighton-based band to integrate complex, crashing noise cascades of jazz, math and prog rock into a sweaty post-punk groove. Their debut album »Bright Green Field« was one of the best of 2021. The tracks on »O Monolith« were tested on tour without the audience's knowledge and then polished by major indie producer Dan Carey (Black Midi, Kae Tempest) in Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios. There, in the county of Wiltshire, about halfway between Bristol, where the band lived longer, and Reading, stands the eponymous monolith: a hard-to-find Neolithic tomb in Stonehenge style, called "Devil's Den", like the album's song of the same name. Oh, mysticism! The capitalism-skeptical states of mind, which Squid still depict in their songs, are thus extended to rural areas and refined with folk elements, as befits a band in the experimental phase. This sometimes seems all too druid-like as in the »Siphon Song«, but in »Undergrowth« at the latest it takes root in the ear canal again. They're still growing their way around. (7.7)

King Krule – »Space Heavy«

Spaces, albeit not expanded, but narrowing, are also the subject of the fourth studio album by the celebrated London singer/songwriter Archy Marshall alias King Krule. The loneliness and homelessness that he addressed on earlier, musically wilder and urban releases has given way to a superficially domesticated calm, a now more dignified, wide-open flow of ambient, only subliminally tense post-rock ballads with lots of saxophone and grumbling, rarely angry guitar. Marshall is the father of a four-year-old daughter and found solace in family life. But the varnish of contentment is thin, »Flimsier« becomes, as in the relationship analysis of the first album piece, if not outright »Flimsy« in the further course. Outside the pink "Pink Shell" of a happy daddy existence, the old demons lurk from the ghost train of a difficult youth, still smelling the "Ooz", the outflow of the deepest abysses of the soul. Although the nihilistic clown King Krule rarely has a run here, as in the beastly grunge blues of the title song or in the nervous jazz of »Hamburgerphobia«, one suspects: After this intermediate work stewing on a low flame, the next big outburst will soon follow. (7.5)