Victoria Monét is no stranger to audiences, even if they don’t know her by name. She’s written for big names like Ariana Grande, who she counts as one of her closest friends, and others like Chloe X Halle, Brandy, and Fifth Harmony. Monét has already released two mixtapes, both released in two parts, and it makes sense that with her debut album, she has already declared her intentions to release another part later on. Jaguar sees Monét fresh off a hot streak with Grande that earned her two Grammy nominations and serves as her first project since coming out as bisexual in November 2018.
The project gets off to a slinky start on “Moment”, where lavish strings aid producers Tim Suby & D’Mile in helping Victoria craft a psychedelic soundscape that sounds cherry-picked from the space age of the 1960s. Monét positions herself as her lover’s dream girl made flesh, urging them to seize the opportunity to act out their deepest desires. The dreamy production serves to sell the idea that Monét is a living fantasy for her lover, but desires for her lover to seize control and physically connect with her in the present. Interlude “Big Boss” works as an anthem of assurance, as she communicates a wish to make the listener feel confident and secure in themselves. Monét addresses herself as a queen and the song is likely intended as a message to herself, but the framing allows her to also hype another listener up and make them feel good about themselves. The production is intimate and moody, which allows Victoria’s light yet resonant vocal to get the song’s message across in its short runtime. On “Dive”, Monét opens up about a fixation she has on her love interest’s mouth. She mixes the metaphor of a conversation that reveals hidden depths about each of them with that of her desire for her love interest to orally give her sexual pleasure. The production remains psychedelic and soaring with a continuous bed-creaking sound that highlights the highly sexual nature of the song and is punctuated by a water drop effect that acknowledges Monét’s diving-into-water metaphor. The song builds to a trumpet outro peppered with moans from Monét, suggesting she has found the sexual satisfaction she craves throughout the track.
“We Might Even Be Falling In Love” is a criminally short interlude that directly draws upon 70s soul, as Monét ponders the sexual and emotional connection she feels with a lover, concluding that she may have found the person she wants to be with for the rest of her life. “Jaguar”, the album’s title track, opens with Monét singing the chorus with minimal instrumentation where she likens herself to a jaguar, telling her love interest they have “nine times to come hit that”, referencing the belief that cats have nine lives. She articulates the natural and instinctive way she feels connected to her love interest, calling their relationship “wild” and labeling it as a “jungle kind of love”. The production weaves in the 70s soul influence with funk and the space-tinged sound of previous tracks, eventually adding in a groovy horn section as the song draws to a close. Monét enlists Khalid and SG Lewis to assist her on “Experience”, an airy and shimmering disco track that casts Khalid and Monét as people fed up with a relationship where they feel underappreciated and hope that with experience, their lover can learn to value their commitment. They are not necessarily cast as opposing lovers here either, instead, Khalid works as a support for Monét’s stance, and his vocals work as a complementary grounding force to Monét’s naturally light vocal. SG Lewis’s production works with the psychedelic and funky elements of the album thus far and utilizes horns as the rest of the album does but adds a dancier and more uptempo edge than prior tracks.
“Ass Like That” details Monét’s relationship with fitness and her body, specifically her journey towards the way her butt looks. It’s a reclamation of the way men speak about women’s bodies as Monét purposefully chooses to sexualize herself, relishing the freedom of loving her body and not caring about what others think about her. The production remains tied to the rest of the album through its usage of horns and its soul influence but has a grittier and more Southern indebted sound, and allows Monét to flex her storytelling and lyrical prowess, turning phrases such as “treat my calories like weed, yeah, I burn that shit”. On “Go There With You”, Monét conveys her distaste for conflict between her and her lover, indicating that she would rather the tension be sexual than argumentative and prefers for things to be chill between them. D’Mile and xSDTRK add a soulful guitar solo that builds on the track’s intimate feel, keeping the 70s soul influence intact and giving the album its moodiest cut. The album ends with “Touch Me”, where Monét deliberately uses female pronouns to describe a queer relationship between herself and another woman, describing their encounter in her lover’s Porsche and intimating her yearning for something to happen between them again. Monét’s vocals work with the dark and pulsing production from D’Mile to deliver a seductive and modern track that still has traces of the spacey and trippy vibe of the project altogether, and Monét ends with an acapella rendition of the chorus, meant to work as a cliffhanger for a promised part two later on.
Jaguar is a strong effort from Monét, who emerges as a self-assured and necessary voice for queer black women in R&B music. More than that, Monét herself is an artist with a vision and due to her prowess, knows how to write songs that adhere and expand upon her vision. Previous mixtapes established her as a skilled artist but here, she establishes herself as an artist that demands mainstream attention. The project is cohesive but not monotonous as Monét immediately establishes a specific soundscape with the first track but extends the psychedelic R&B influences to soul and disco, giving her enough range to prove herself as an artist with versatility. Monét excels with her vocal performance as well, managing to play with her timbre to accentuate the different moods and vibes across the project. This is a record brimming with confidence as Monét takes ownership of her sexuality with undeniable star quality, calling to mind predecessors such as Janet Jackson in how explicit she is willing to be. Overall, this is an excellent debut from Monét that should make it clear she is a name everyone should be paying attention to if they’re not already.