Janelle Monae’s audacious creativity has raised expectations for this showcase of her new Wondaland label. While appealing, the songs here are also surprisingly tame and lacking in true wonder: Tracks from Jidenna, St. Beauty, Roman GianArthur, and Deep Cotton are smartly executed without ever challenging convention. Jidenna’s stylish summer hit “Classic Man” is polished melodic pop with plenty of attitude, but the grittier remix allows Kendrick Lamar to overshadow the singer and inadvertently subverts the throwback intent. Deep Cotton makes an impression burying into a slinky groove on “Let’s Get Caught,” evoking early Prince. GianArthur’s “I Know” is too slight to gain traction. But St. Beauty offers dimension with the
ballad “Going Nowhere.” The mercurial Monae contributes a stab at crossover, “Yoga,” her most disappointing song to date — a Rihanna-esque track that oddly reduces yoga to booty-popping sexuality. Hopefully going forward, everyone here will embrace Monae’s usual outlier tendencies and careful attention to songcraft. (Out Friday)
ESSENTIAL “Going Nowhere”Ken Capobianco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.