Sporting her trademark pompadour and black and white wardrobe, singer Janelle Monáe has come a long way from slanging her unofficial first studio album out of an Atlanta boarding house back in 2003. Most recently, she rocked out at the BET Awards and Essence Festival in New Orleans and even graced the cover of the magazine's May issue. And between the release of her official debut, The ArchAndroid, Monáe has racked up other superlatives, including six-time Grammy Award nominee, CoverGirl spokeswoman, alternative culture role model and friend of music legend Prince.
Now, she’s set to release her second album, The Electric Lady, on September 10. So far, she’s already created quite the buzz with her video for the album’s first single, “Q.U.E.E.N,” which features singer Erykah Badu and a funky throwback beat and bass line. Monáe has also teamed up with Target, allowing fans to pre-order the album with exclusive bonus tracks, including a remix to “Q.U.E.E.N” and cover of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.”
EBONY.com caught up with Monáe recently to get the details on her new album.
EBONY: Let’s talk about the new album, The Electric Lady. When is the release date and what can you tell us about project in terms of inspirations, themes, and production?
Janelle Monáe: Yes! The Electric Lady, the follow up to The ArchAndroid will be released September 10, 2013. I’m extremely excited to showcase what we’re working on. I got a chance to put on my production hat this time around. There are also some excellent collaborations on this album. I got to work with and produce my friend Erykah Badu for the first single, "Q.U.E.E.N." I also had the chance to co-produce Miguel, Esperanza Spalding and Prince. With Prince, I got the opportunity to produce an icon. It was like a dream.
EBONY: How would you describe The Electric Lady as a body of work?
JM: All of my albums are conceptual and this one is no different in that sense. There’s a quote I really like by the director Alejandro Jodorowsky, who said, "I am like the rain, I go where I'm needed.” The album is a strong R&B album because R&B really did need something to it. One of my goals was to create something that stretched R&B. I wanted to evoke Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley. People may not realize they’re really the roots of a lot of music and that R&B doesn’t have to all [sound] the same.
EBONY: What inspired this album title?
JM: I love speaking about the future. It gives us the chance to do and be something greater. For this album, my own painting inspired me. I would paint on stage. I would paint this woman, the silhouette of a woman every night. I talked to people about it and was encouraged to name her. I thought about it and decided to call her The Electric Lady. I asked myself what she would think about life, love, making love and that helped me develop some of the themes of the album.
EBONY: You talk often about authenticity and it sounds like a part of your creative process is about staying present and grounded. How do you achieve that?
JM: You have to have a great support system behind you, people that help you meet your goals. I’ve been blessed with an incredible team in everyone at the Wondaland Arts Society. You have to stay around that kind of family environment to remain comfortable in your own skin. That’s really important.
EBONY: People love your music for its strong social commentary. What are your goals with this album?
JM: You know, the great thing about what I do as an artist is that I can make music to take people out of these ruts, away from what’s going on around them and inspire them and speak against things like the marginalization of certain groups, for example. I put that into my music. I try to help people focus because we’re in a time when people are out of control. I don’t want to just talk about it. I want to inspire people to do and be more.