Though rising R&B star Janelle Monae sometimes seems absorbed in a futuristic world of androids and clones, she pays homage in song to two real-life female groundbreakers on her brand new album, “The Electric Lady”: astronaut Sally Ride and actress Dorothy Dandridge.
“'The Electric Lady’ are the ladies who are out there in this world and should be respected,” Monae says.
Dandridge in 1954 was the first African American to be nominated for an Academy Award for best actress, for her role in “Carmen Jones.” Monae extols the virtues of the actress in the jazzy “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes.”
Ride's service on the crew of the space shuttle Challenger in 1983 made her the first American woman in space. Monae's rock 'n' roll ballad “Sally Ride” on “The Electric Lady” is a funky space oddity.
“She was definitely working as an astronaut during a time when women were not being accepted, she was the minority,” Monae says of the late Ride. “I thought it was important to pay homage to her and tell her story and also she was in a same-sex relationship for a while ... and women who were in same-sex relationships would definitely be fired or discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.”
It's all part of the “Electric Lady” concept.
“It's important to show female appreciation,” Monae says. “You don’t have to necessarily be sexually attracted to a woman to appreciate her or to value her.”
Monae is a Kansas City-born, Atlanta-raised chanteuse who gained the support of OutKast's Big Boi and Sean Combs to emerge as a solo artist with 2007’s “Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase).” “The ArchAndroid,” her 2010 album, saw her profile rise, as did her contribution to the Fun smash “We Are Young” and her being named as a CoverGirl spokeswoman. “The Electric Lady” debuted at No. 5 on Billboard's album chart last month.
The new record, which features guests Prince, Erykah Badu, Miguel, Solange and Esperanza Spalding, is a happy swirl of R&B, disco, torchy ballads, rock 'n' roll and soul microwaved in a time machine. She's now taking the show on the road.
“It’s going to be an interactive experience,” Monrae says. “There are going to be lots of androids from Metropolis who are going to time travel and you’ll get a chance to meet them.”
Sunday, Oct. 13, 8 p.m.
The Electric Factory
421 N. Seventh St.
Wednesday, Oct. 16, 7 p.m.
House of Blues
15 Lansdowne St., Boston
$25 to $45, 888-693-2583
New York City
Friday, Oct. 18, 8 p.m.
253 W. 125th St.