A state of emergency is where this track doesn’t want to be.
Katherine St Asaph: The first and last time I attempted yoga, I failed to stretch for a few minutes, fell lurchingly onto my back, then sat out the remainder. This track sounds about as pained.
Anthony Easton: Lululemon’s IPO was the oak stake in the body of yoga as a spiritual practice, and this track is the refusal of Janelle Monae’s more optimistic Afro-futurism in favor of a completely embodied pleasure. But if George Clinton has taught us anything, the body and the spirit are unified, and you can introduce someone to the world for how it “bends over.” All of this collapses into the singularity of poperatic insincerity–around the time she melismas the fuck out of that areola line.
Maxwell Cavaseno: As Janelle Monae makes a strange attempt into rather dignified EDM-trap-pop from her longstanding tendency of over-conceptual Andrew Lloyd Webber Afrofuturism. However, the alarming discovery is that as a modern artist attempting…well, Beyonce or Rihanna could easily sell this. But without a goofy sci-fi structure for her to play in, Monae sounds like a dad using hip terminology they read on Wikipedia. I half expect her to say “swag” and do it wrong. And Jidenna… Look, I like “Classic Man” as a bizarre bougie responder to Young Thug but this guy isn’t just a ham, he’s the whole entirety of the Boar’s Head Emporium. Stop him now before he gives us congestive heart failure.
Alfred Soto: Cyborg soul meets aerobics, and Monáe on first listen sounds like the ideal choice for a track with the hook “Let your booty do the yoga.” But with exceptions she expends too much passion when the material demands distance or keeps that distance when she needs to yell at clouds. It isn’t the case with “Yoga” — the song is too flimsy. (now if she’d covered Bjork’s “Joga…”). A member of the audiene at the EMP Pop Conference alluded to her — “why is someone with such a strong ‘brand’ not better known or sold more records?” Her self-written songs aren’t as good as Britney’s, a critic in front of me suggested, not aloud.
Cédric Le Merrer: I’m more used to be the one defending Janelle against the theater kid label, but to be as badass as it hopes to, a song like “Yoga” would need a singer less afraid of not sticking to the melody. Monae is out of her element here — she didn’t even risk a Yoda rhyme. And Jidenna seems like a guy who wants you to pull your pants up and tip your fedora at the same time.
Iain Mew: In “Yoga,” Janelle Monáe is obviously recognizable and obviously out of her element. That didn’t have to be a bad thing, and I could easily imagine a song which made something of the tension and strangeness, but this is too unimaginative and safe a take on the booty song with dance drops for that. She still does better than the Jidenna verse, where it briefly becomes a really boring version of “Dark Horse”.
Will Adams: I could tolerate the blatant “Dark Horse” rehashing or how out of place Janelle sounds, but it’s the central metaphor — stupid in and of itself but not taken to its ridiculous extreme — that takes this from bad to embarrassing.