How has it been five years since Janelle Monáe released her last album? It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago, but here we are. Their new album, The Age of Pleasure dropped earlier this month, and I was not ready. When their first single “Floatwp_postswas released back in February, I was curious as to the direction the album was going to take. “Floatwp_postssounds like a Janelle Monáe song, but that’s also because her style is constantly evolving. It didn’t give us a whole lot of indication of what the rest of the album would sound like, but it was definitely a departure from the android/computer persona Monáe had previously inhabited. They were going to be tapping into a new part of themselves, and I don’t think any of us could have been ready for it.
Instead of doing this like a traditional review, I’m going to take you all on the journey of listening to The Age of Pleasure for the first time. I knew this album was going to be sensual, if not downright sexy. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been paying rapt attention to the aesthetic of this album. Janelle said “titties out” and I have no choice but to enthusiastically endorse this decision. ENTHUSIASTICALLY. Who am I to question their motives? I can only respect the process. Anyways, here we go!
The first words we hear are “no, I’m not the same.wp_postsClearly they are telling us upfront that we’re in for something completely different than we are used to. Right out of the gate, they’re coming at us with swagger, a different kind of swagger than we’re used to. It’s confidence, not bravado. Floating through life is something that is equal to freedom. And by embracing her identity, she is freeing herself from the expectations of others. “Floatwp_postsis the levity of self-acceptance.
This is the song for when you’re laying out in the sun
Whether you’re at the beach, the pool, or even laying in the grass on a blanket at the park, this song just screams summer.
“Champagne Shit” & “Black Sugar Beach”
This song comes out grooving — I instantly want to start dancing when I hear it. (I’m immediately adding it to several playlists) Like, I can immediately picture dancing to this in a dimly lit room with a bunch of other sweaty bodies around me. “Champagne Shitwp_postshas more of that braggadocious kind of swagger over an infectious drum beat. “Black Sugar Beachwp_postsis the outro to “Champagne Shit”, and you don’t even realize they’re two different songs.
This is the song for when you want to get the party started
If you want to pop bottles and put on your dancing shoes, this is the song that gets you there.
“Phenomenal” (feat. Doechii)
“I’m looking at a thousand versions of myself, and we’re all fine as fuck.wp_postsOkay! I’m liking what this song is putting down. Even through the African drumbeat at the heart of the song, it’s very sensual and even seducing. Again, it’s a song that I can picture dancing to, but also using to set the mood for some sexual activity. I like to switch up the kind of music I use for foreplay, and this song will definitely be going on the list.
This is the song for when you need to hype yourself up
We all need a little hype sometimes. Put this on and get a little hop in your step.
In addition to being an incredible musician and rising actor, Janelle Monáe is a known fashionista. The Met Gala is always infinitely better when they’re walking the red carpet. “Hautewp_postsusually refers to couture clothing, but in this case, it’s a play on the word “hot”, which is also incredibly clever. The whole song is a repeat of feeling sexy, hot and feeling themself.
This is the song for when you’re feeling yourself
I mean this more figuratively. If you’re feeling cute, put this song on.
“Oooh La La” (feat. Grace Jones)
Grace Jones is an absolute ICON, and I love this pairing so much. It’s only thirty-five seconds of Grace Jones speaking French, but I still love it? I do truly wish it was a full song, but this is still magnifique!
This is the song for when you need a minute to yourself
This is a brief interlude, so it gives you a second to collect yourself and get in the right headspace.
I still haven’t fully recovered from the music video for this song. You may recall how it melted many brains here at Autostraddle. I’ve listened to this song many times already, but I finally figured out that the first line of the pre-chorus “Cause for your love, I’ll take my timewp_postsis a Stevie Wonder lyric! It has been haunting me every time I listen, so I finally looked it up. Stevie Wonder is credited as one of the songwriters on the track as well.
This is the song for when you want to seduce someone
It’s a sexy song, we all know this. It feels like fingertips brushing down a jaw or a back; pure seduction.
“The Rush” (feat. Nia Long & Amaarae)
Nia Long’s voice is so seductive on this song. I don’t go here, but even I’m looking twice. This song signifies the tonal shift of the album from self-love and pleasure to pleasuring someone else. “Pussy gonna lay go down, make you rest in peace, Fuckin’ you like it’s my destiny. God, what’s come over me?wp_postsAdding this to my playlist immediately!
This is the song for when you’re making your move
It’s heady, it feels like the moment you give over to pure feeling and forget how to think; you’re acting on instinct.
“The French 75” (feat. Sister Nancy)
A French 75 is a gin and champagne cocktail, and this song sounds like it was recorded in a bar. The whole song is just a long toast.
This is the song for when you’re not paying attention
This song is really just background noise, quite literally. You don’t really need to think about it.
And now I see why the album is called The Age of Pleasure. “Water Slidewp_postsis one hundred percent about self-pleasure. “I’m holdin’ my breath with my eyes closed, I can swim solo. Feelin’ all around for the right spot, Playin’ Marco Polo.wp_postsNeed I say more? I do not think so!
This is the song for when you’re feeling yourself
I mean that literally. If you want to turn your body into a slip n’ slide, put this on and have at it.
“Know Better” (feat. CKay, Seun Kuti & Egypt 80)
Opening with a strong brass section and Afro-Caribbean beats, this song is pure seduction. I’m getting the energy of a person you see across the room at a bar and you are instantly drawn to them. You know it’s not going to last for more than one night, but you want that night to go on as long as it can. I really love the brass on this song.
This is the song for when you need to make a move
The beat just propels you forward, whether it’s to make your move on someone or something.
“Paid in Pleasure”
This feels like a follow-up to the song before. They were able to seduce the person into a one night stand, and now we’re getting to hear what happens during that night. With lyrics like “I lick, lick, lick from you nectar,wp_postsit sounds like it was a GREAT night.
This is the song for when you want to set the mood
This is pure, unadulterated sex. Go forth and do with that what you will.
“Only Have Eyes 42”
I don’t know if this is yet another continuation of the songs before it, but I feel like a fly on the wall of a very sexy evening. Monáe samples one of my favorite songs, “I Only Have Eyes For You”, using it to declare their interest in two different sexual (maybe romantic) partners. The song is brief, but very intimate.
This is the song for when you want to seal the deal
There is a singular focus to this song, and it will remind you to keep your eyes on the prize.
“A Dry Red”
It feels fitting to end the song with one last plea for the pleasure they’ve been experiencing for the last four or five songs. They’re almost begging, but it doesn’t sound desperate, it’s almost wistful. Clearly, this person has made an impact on them in a way that they haven’t been able to forget since the summer, and while we have no idea how much time has passed, it’s clear there was a strong connection between them and the person they’re pining for.
This is the song for when the night is over
If you’re still starry eyed, put “A Dry Red” on and be transported back to the moments of pleasure.
And that’s it!
My biggest complaint about The Age of Pleasure is that it’s only thirty-two minutes long. Just as the album starts to really hit its stride, it’s over! I know that short albums are the style right now, but I miss albums that were at least forty-five minutes long. It feels too much like foreplay; I was left buzzy and wanting more.