Janelle Monáe has been bustin’ out all over — and we mean that both literally and figuratively. The singer has come a long way since their days of wearing signature black-and-white looks. We got our first shift in what we came to expect of the artist when they dropped Dirty Computer back in 2018. That album shook up not only their public image but also their style as they experimented with sounds and visuals while staking claim to their identity. They’re doubling down and going further on their latest release, The Age Of Pleasure.
We already knew that Janelle was feeling themself thanks to boastful lead single “Float.” We also knew that they had sex on the brain thanks to lustful romp “Lipstick Lover.” However, The Age Of Pleasure takes those ideas to a whole other level. Incorporating elements of Afrobeat and reggae into the formula, the singer crafts an ode to love — whether exploring it alone or with others — and the freedom that comes with indulging in what pleases you.
The singer also smartly recruits a small cadre of collaborators to enhance the experience. The number includes Seun Kuti and Egypt 80, Doechii, Grace Jones, Sister Nancy, Ckay, Amaarae and even Nia Long in spoken word mode. They’re each used as colors in Janelle's palette rather than attention grabbers for clout. Janelle also manages to keep us on our toes, varying the rhythms from fast to slow, sensual to communal, while traversing through standout cuts like “Haute,” “Phenomenal,” “Know Better” and “The Rush.”
At just over 30 minutes, the album might be the shortest work in their oeuvre. But The Age Of Pleasure is Janelle Monáe once again innovating and creating like only they can. It’s one age that we hope sticks around for as long as it can.