When Janelle Monáe—Pronouns: she/her, they/them—sparing no one’s innocence, put out the video of 'Lipstick Lover'—a single from her (at that time) soon-to-be-released album, Age of Pleasure—the internet split into two. On one side were the people left scandalized by the video’s unabashed display of the female form in a euphoric queer paradise (forcing her to release a clean version weeks later), on the other side were her loyal fans who had always seen this version of Ms. Monaé coming. So, they embraced Monáe’s freedom on 'Lipstick Lover', in anticipation of an alchemy of hedonism that they set to be released on June 9th, 2023 (6/9, cheeky indeed).
On Age of Pleasure, Janelle Monáe creates anthems of reckless abandon that transport us to cloud nine, where we star as the main character with a soundtrack— spanning pop, reggae, amapiano, rnb, and afrobeats—for car drives on the weekend where the breeze caresses your hair and, sweaty bodies intertwined on nights where colors are brighter and moans, louder.
If mystical sirens released RnB, it will sound a lot like Amaarae and Hollywood bombshell, Nia Long-assisted hypnotic 'The Rush'. The Age of Pleasure delicious trio: the waist-whining 'Know Better' featuring emo-afrobeats artist C-kay, the bubbly 'Paid in Pleasure', and 'Only Have Eyes 42', a cheeky celebration of a throuple or at least, a romantic three-way, lures us to embrace the sheer joy that comes with loosened inhibitions and to devote ourselves to the heat of the moment
Acceptance comes first, then Liberation. It’s evident on the album’s opener 'Float', where Janelle along creeping basslines and with uncertainty begins the song by repeating “No I’m—, no, I’m not-, no, I’m not the same”. Finally, after triumphant horns (courtesy Seun Kuti and his band, Egypt 80) she boldly declares “No, I’m not the same.” The tempo of the song never slows down.
If 'Float' is an anthem on the highest echelon of self-confidence (Janelle Monaé neither “steps” nor “walk”, they only “float”) then 'Phenomenal' with a fusion of amapiano and ballroom influences, beginning with a declaration: “I’m looking at a thousand versions of myself/ And we’re all fine as fuck”, is self-confidence in flesh and blood.
'Dry Red' conjuring a dreamy romantic ambiance was the ideal song to close the album. It appears that Janelle Monáe has offered us a body of work with no single skip— except if you are eager to pass through 'French 79', a litany of cheerful toasts recited against jazzy instrumentals, to get to 'Water Slide' a bouncy track with a supreme earworm hook.
Janelle Monáe has figured out exactly who they are and how they want to sound right now, the issue though is, The Age of Pleasure doesn’t last longer. Nevertheless, after such a sensational album, there lingers salivatory anticipation of what else this multi-hyphenate star may decide to share.
Listen to Age of Pleasure on: Spotify