It’s been about 5 years since Janelle Monae dropped Dirty Computer, and I remember it being one of my top albums of that year. Everyone agreed that album is fire, and since then they have returned to the silver screen appearing in such films as Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery and Antebellum. There’s also been news of them coming out as non-binary, with their pronouns being they/them & she/her around April 2022.
Now there has been a couple of singles prior to the release of their new album The Age of Pleasure, the first being “Float” released in February, and the next being”Lipstick Lover” with a very horny NSFW video and yeah, I think this album is going to have that same motif, as evident with the cover of Janelle swimming topless and she also appears that in the video.
It’s been a while since Dirty Computer and from those early singles, we’re getting some Afro-centric vibes coming in. So, did this album give us any pleasure?
Well, we know what the central theme of this album is: SEX!
Sort of. In a way, it’s actually very tasteful but still horny on main and through the lens of her queer and black experience. She also quotes this about the album in an interview: “so specific to this Pan-African crowd who are my friends. I want it to be a love letter to the diaspora. And if they fuck with it, it’s good. I’m great.” The style of it is very laidback with sounds from worldly genreslike Afrobeat, reggae and soul, and it does have a very sensual vibe that varies outside of her first two albums. The majority of the production is handled by most of the Wondaland crew from Nate Wonder, Roman GianArthur and even Nigerian musicians Seun Keti and Egypt 80 (also a feature in a couple of tracks here). In other words, there’s less of the sci-fi elements from previous albums and more erotic yet tasteful joy.
“Champagne Shit” got some braggadocios Ethiopian electric piano and synths that land that groovy sound; it’s all about enjoying the luxurious side of life when you got it, from taking vacations to popping that bubbly, hence that champagne shit. “Phenomenal” has Janelle in the beginning delivering her verse in a monotonic way, and the track is all about how her and her friends are all sexy, fine and phenomenal, as they say. We get a feature from rapper/singer Doechii with both a verse of hers and contributing to the chorus with Janelle. Another track where they are feeling themselves is “Haute.” Yes, the song is called that, like hot (HAUTE).
“Lipstick Lover” is basically for the sapphics… no really, the lyrics do mostly talk about having a good ‘ol time with a woman or femme-presenting person. (Yes, I know it’s not that version! I’m not risking getting a strike or getting this site a strike!)
I really got a thing for my lipstick lover, lover, lover, lover, lover
I’ll do anything for my lipstick lover, lover, lover, lover, lover
“The Rush” has this lush and sensual feel starting with Nia Long (yes, the same actress you know in every black movie in the 90s) doing some spoken word in the beginning, and guess what? It’s more about sex if you couldn’t tell from the lyrics, especially with the feature verse from rapper/singer Amaarae. I forgot to briefly mention that there is some interludes in between some tracks and those have features from Grace Jones (“Oohh La La”) and Sister Nancy (“The French 75”). I admit, I was disappointed in that because I did want to hear them in a longer track, and some of the shorter tracks on here do feel like an extended outro to the previous song, like how “Black Sugar Beach” is mostly an extended outro to “Champagne Shit.” The last few tracks like “Know Better,” “Water Slide,” “Only Have Eyes 42,” and “A Dry Red” are good as well, a bit short but hey, the music still hits.
Other than that, I really have no major qualms with this album to be honest. I feel like some fans of her might be a bit disappointed that she hasn’t followed up her sci-fi albums since The Electric Lady but still, this is a solid album nevertheless. From the lush and mesmerizing production to the very blunt themes about sex that cater to and celebrate the queer/black experience, it might not be revolutionary but it’s still worth a listen and I know it’ll be great at parties, especially those that want to vibe and groove with this.
FINAL VERDICT: BUY IT. I had a pleasure listening to this album various times.
THE AGE OF PLEASURE is on Wondaland Arts Society/Bad Boy Records/Atlantic Records and available on CD, vinyl, digital download and streaming services.