Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Janelle Monae is an ArchAndroid

2010, you are really too good to me. Each week, there's something new, and every so often, I stumble upon not just a great track but an incredible album. Enter Janelle Monáe. I'm rather late to the party with her, but this past Tuesday, she released her sophomore album, the lengthy The ArchAndroid, which plays as a continuation of 2007's Metropolis EP. (Should be noted The ArchAndroid comes to us via Bad Boy Records -- the best they've output in a long time, no?)

I have rather little to say about the disc other than it is dazzling on every level. It contains Suites Two and Three of Monáe's eventual four "acts" in her Metropolis series, and is refreshing in every way possible. The album is overloaded with real(!) instruments, unique sound bytes, sweeping imagery and powerful, imaginative lyrics. It's the type of R&B I don't really remember hearing since my early childhood -- the type of planned out album package that Janet Jackson gave us in the late 1980's/early 1990's. The album is relatively airtight as an album; I adore the gorgeous overture intros that introduce each "suite". It's the type of project that is meant to be listened to all at once -- and with 18 tracks and well over an hour playtime, the record is a beast to be sure. In my head, it plays out spectacularly as a colorful, dramatic Broadway drama musical, complete with bookended acts. How surreal when an album can truly take you on a mental vacation with a definitive beginning, middle and end, and still leave you wanting more!

While it's a bit difficult to cut it up into pieces as to what should work best as singles, one of the reasons why I adore this record so much is because it's not meant to be cut up into pieces. First single "Tightrope", which features Big Boi of Outkast fame is a lot of fun, but not necessarily Top 40 friendly, and I'm interested to see the commercial success of such a boundary-pushing full set. At the end of the day, the results are genre-bending and Monae comes off effortlessly as a strong woman that we all can look up to in an age where promiscuity and Auto-Tuned vocals are heralded (and kind of the norm, really).

While I'm inhaling the album slowly (at 18 tracks, there's so much to hear!), my early favorites are definitely "Dance Or Die", "Locked Inside", "Come Alive (War of the Roses)" and "Neon Valley Street" (not to mention the truly epic "Babopbye Ya", clarinet solo and all!). But, to be fair, all of the album is amazing in it's own way, and it's been a long time since I've truly been able to claim that with a relaxed heart.

Truly, what an amazing way to kick off the summer! This is a record that will feel good anytime of the year, and for many many more years to come. The ArchAndroid is officially the record to beat so far for the Album of the Year title. 

For more on Janelle, may I direct your attention to the PinBoard blog, who are featuring a brand new interview with the woman herself, which makes for a great read. Rather than breaking down the finer points, I hand you off to my girl the Audio Diva, as she's touched on most of what I've been grooving to already. Do your homework, people! Janelle is one to watch -- she's heard our call for real music, and delivered. Big time.

1 comment:

John said...

Alright, you've got me. I'm gonna get it this weekend and see how it is. I love the cover, so that's a good start.

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