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The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

Victoria Monét’s ‘Jaguar II’: A Lustrous, Grand Debut

Image from Spotify

Golden, sleek, and smooth like honey; these terms help to define the artistry of R&B artist Victoria Monét. An acclaimed songwriter since 2010 who branched off into creating music as a solo artist in 2014, Monét has spent over a decade building her distinctive sound within the music industry. Monét’s sonic evolution largely fell on deaf ears compared to appreciation for her penmanship that helped in creating many record-breaking songs for other artists, but her own artistic expression became impossible to ignore after the release of her 2020 extended play “Jaguar.” 

“Jaguar,” Monét’s third extended play, provided a collection of silky ’70s funk-infused songs that embodied the spirit of the regal feline. Monét has now re-entered the jungle with the creation of “Jaguar II,” the second and final part of the “Jaguar” series. Broadening the scope of her past work, “Jaguar II” expands the theme into a fully realized conceptual album, allowing Monét to reintroduce herself to the general public. 

Richer in both technical sound and introspective depth, the album showcases the range that Monét has acquired in songwriting, thematic exploration and sound direction. The opening segment of “Jaguar II” begins with the first track of the album, “Smoke,” a groovy saxophone-filled introduction in which she celebrates the relaxation that comes from nature’s “sacred herb.” Alongside featured artist Lucky Daye, Monét shares her eagerness to smoke as they drive around town, gushing, “In my fingertips I burn my worries.”  

The album’s blaring yet effortlessly smooth entrance is swiftly halted by the immersive snapping of a lighter and the seamless transition to the second track, “Smoke (Reprise),” which arrives after the first puff of smoke. Monét substitutes the funky beat for a low tempo rhythm, symbolizing how she intends to end the night on a “high note” after having a smoke with her lover. The reprise meets its ending with layers of soft strings, just before the sound of infectious chords from the next track erupts from beneath the surface. 

“Party Girls,” the third track on the album, further showcases Monét’s exploration of the fusion of modern and vintage sound. Featuring reggae musician Buju Banton, “Party Girls” transports the audience to a sizzling reggae scene, sparking reminiscence to the early 2000s dancehall influence on pop culture. On the track, Monét and Banton share appreciation for party girls and the lively energy that they inject into the atmosphere, figuratively “lighting up” the world.  

Party girls are typically regarded as a one-dimensional and superficial group of people, but Monét expresses her gratitude due to how they inspire confidence in her to be carefree and independent. This confident energy is further highlighted with the fourth track on the album, “Alright,” a suave anthem of sexual liberation and independence.  

In this bombastic house-infused R&B track, constructed by famed producer Kaytranada, Monét sends a strong message of empowerment, refuting sexist tropes of the modern-day woman. Monét rejects the notion that a woman is obligated to display devotion and reciprocated gratitude towards her sexual partners.  

She also dismantles the trope of women supposedly being hypnotized by the bravado of the men they encounter, subverting the trope with an assertion of a “no strings attached” attitude, regardless of the man’s expectations or sexist judgements. The track closes with an intoxicating beat breakdown before the emergence of a growl from a looming jaguar. 

After this sonic reemergence, the feline theme becomes a prominent force throughout the album. The fifth song on the album, “Cadillac (A Pimp’s Anthem),” sets out to challenge the stereotypes of gender dynamics within relationships. On a groovy horn- and flute-infused beat, Monét illustrates how women use their smoothness, savviness, and ferocity to be just as suave as any pimp to secure the necessary funds for their desired lifestyle. 

This assertiveness is also evident within the sixth track, “How Does It Make You Feel,” a lush ’70s-reminiscent, jazzy lullaby. Monét assures her significant other that they have her complete love and loyalty without any compromise, as if it were a divine blessing for both. 

The seventh track on the album, “On My Mama,” unleashes an explosion of confidence that Monét has been building throughout the album, culminating in the lyric “Ladies is pimps tonight.” Presenting a swanky trumpet-filled interpolation of the 2009 hip hop classic “I Look Good” by Charlie Boy, “On My Mama” radiates positive self-affirmation as Monét pridefully revels in her internal and external confidence, a gift that she inherited from her own mother.  

The eighth track, “I’m The One,” steers the album towards a more vulnerable perspective of self-affirmation within relationships. Monét rejects the prevailing belief that women should blame themselves for not being a top priority by their partners, despite their best efforts of forming a stronger connection. Instead, she condemns her partner for not recognizing that she is his heart’s desire.  

The ninth track on the album, “Stop (Askin’ Me 4Shyt),” serves as a playful palate cleanser for the album. Monet transports listeners to a funky ’70s sitcom where she merrily tells her companion that she doesn’t want him to ask for any handouts. Along a jovial and crisp drum-packed production, Monét basks in her sonic creativity as she affectionately pokes fun at her own experiences with lines such as “I barely even just got on,” reminding her peers that her kind nature does not make her a pushover. 

In regard to not being a pushover, Monét uses the 10th track on the album, “Hollywood,” to reflect on her journey within the music industry. On this stripped-down, string-filled production, Monét strips away her layers of grandiosity as she reminisces on both past obstacles and sacrifices in her pursuit of fame. Monét balances her appreciation of Hollywood glamor with the beauty of the fleeting small things in life.  

Featuring legendary group Earth, Wind & Fire, Monét delights in reaching a point in her career where her hard work is validated. However, “Hollywood” conveys the message of remembering not to disregard the beauty of quiet living due to the pressure of reaching fame. Monét sings, “Get lost in all the glitter and the bling,” as a warning.  

The song also features the bubbly laughs of Monét’s daughter, as she reminds herself to appreciate the simple yet temporary pleasures of life, such as the connection to her growing family. 

The final track of the album, “Goodbye,” closes “Jaguar II” with a thematic finale, in which Monét marks her farewell to her audience with the end of the album, and to the “Jaguar” narrative. On the track, Monét seeks to end her relationship with her former lover with the perfect amount of closure.  

Filled with sonically diverse and expansive instrumentals, “Goodbye” carries the aura of a final act within a film or concert. The tender production and writing of the song fully embody a mesmerizing conclusion to the “Jaguar” presence.  

Overall, “Jaguar II” provides a riveting and immersive experience that showcases a brand-new peek at Monét’s cultivated musical prowess. Abundant in sonic earworms, thematic exploration, and nuanced discussions, “Jaguar II” reflects a perfect visualization of the strides that Monét has made as an evolving and flourishing artist. 

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Najee Manning, Senior Staff Writer
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