“This album is dedicated to those who maintain their connection to Africa, scientifically the land of all origin.” Singer/songwriter Janelia leaves this note on the inside of the case to her new album, I’m an African. As a European mutt whose ancestors have been in the United States since the good old colonial days, it is hard for me to identify with that statement. However, I do respect Janelia for her ties to her culture and her knowledge of where she comes from.
The opening track, which is also the title track, is the singer’s anthem and ode to her heritage. It inspires a “You go, girl!” moment; at the same time, some of the lyrics seem awkward and forced, such as most of the chorus: “Born and bred in the USA/Second-generation immigrant/Want to be myself in this hip-hop world.” This lyrical forcefulness is prevalent throughout the entire album, such as the line “1 and 1 is equal to 2” from “Jonpe.”
The tunes are undeniably catchy, but I just don’t get the songs. Maybe having an understanding of African culture is necessary to fully appreciate the album. I must note that the spoken-word portion of “Baba Wa” was very informative for someone who is so ignorant about such a large continent, but I still don’t know what Baba Wa means.
On a technical note, the indie feel of the album gives it a real, genuine sound, although that works against Janelia’s favor in “Just Kala” because the guitar part sounds flat. The ending of this song sounds haphazard and messy, and definitely would have been better off had it ended a minute sooner. Also, the harmonies used throughout the various tracks tend to be distracting, and this is coming from a person who loves harmony and doesn’t think today’s music uses enough of it.
I respect the message that Janelia attempts to send through her album; however, she fails to convey the message effectively, as said message is lost in awkward lyrics, out-of-tune guitars, and distracting harmonies. It is an overall weak offering from someone who just might take herself a little too seriously; after all, her track “Get On Down,” despite talking about dancing and shaking it, lacks the pep of a dance track.
The album as a whole lacks the variety to make it interesting. All of the songs have the same feel, the same tempo, and the same volume, which makes everything blend together. If an album is supposed to take the listener on a ride, this one is the carousel at the kiddy park.
Review By: Valerie Williams[Rating: 1/5]