Monét claims the spotlight on her debut EP, a sleek cocoon of funk-tinged R&B that excavates what it means to be in control.
Victoria Monét was already in the studio when Ariana Grande meandered in, clutching Tiffany’s bags, tipsy from champagne served at the store. The story behind how they wrote “7 rings,” along with a slew of collaborators, is baked into the song—relishing their new matching jewelry, a huddle of Grande’s friends turned their conspicuous consumption into an “empowering” chant: “I want it/ I got it.” Monét met Grande two years before the pop star’s first album dropped, and since then she has been a force behind mega-pop hits: Fifth Harmony’s “Work From Home,” Grande’s quiet, hopeful, “thank u, next,” and Chloe x Halle’s incandescent earworm “Do It.” But after “7 Rings” became such a hit, Monét told The Fader last year, she took time off from making songs for other people and focused strictly on her own music for the first time.
The resulting EP, Jaguar, is a sleek cocoon of funk-tinged R&B that excavates what it means to be in control. “I’m just living on instinct,” she croons on the title track, as glossy disco beats skitter and pulse. “What it be like dealing with a queen?” she breathes on interlude “Big Boss,” before launching into a gooey, glimmering harmony. Monét has said she aims to write about sex the way men do. Though she succeeds, the results are sometimes unfortunate. The simmering ballad “Ass Like That” focuses entirely on her butt: She details her squat routine, burns her calories “like weed,” and insists she doesn’t edit her photos. It’s a catchy song that oscillates between charming and clumsy. “Dive” undulates over the sound effect of a creaking bed with shrieks and moans layered over the swoop of her voice in the chorus. “Life is but a dream, here we are inside of it/ and you’re inside of me,” she coos over swelling violins on “Moment.” From the velvet of her voice over sweeping strings to the slinky rush of electro beats, it’s the shimmer in these songs that keeps them compelling.
That propulsive sheen reaches a crescendo on “Experience,” the latest in a series of sparkling electro-funk singles announcing a new female pop power. Normani took a whirl with this, matching Sam Smith on “Dancing With a Stranger,” just before “Motivation” catapulted her to a new level of stardom; two years before she released her studio debut album, Jessie Reyez smirked (also beside Sam Smith) on the on the Calvin Harris-produced “Promises.” Dua Lipa, maybe the most prominent figure of the recent pop-funk resurgence, had her juddering single “Electricity,” a Mark Ronson-Diplo collab. Monét’s voice swirls around S.G. Lewis’ disco drums and gauzy synths on “Experience,” and Khalid shows up for a palatable, anonymous-sounding feature. Monét makes the song a celebration, listing her hopes for a breakup’s aftermath to bleating trumpets that eventually fade in the background. Like the rest of the EP, the track functions as both a triumph and a declaration: Victoria Monét is claiming the spotlight, dazzling and dancing all the way.
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