Photo Source: BBC media images
Janelle Monae’s debut album ArchAndroid is more than just a science-fiction concept album. Instead it is a collection of astounding songs which successfully mesh together various genres, giving the audience a taste of Monae’s signature music from the future. Together with her android alter ego, Cindi Mayweather, Monae has created a masterpiece of modern music.
The concept of this album is largely based on an earlier released EP entitled Metropolis which chronicled the life and adventures of Monae’s alter ego Cindi Mayweather in the futuristic city of Metropolis. Monae drew inspiration from Metropolis a 1927 science fiction film by German director Fritz Lang. This idea has been extended to her official debut album in which Cindi Mayweather becomes the ArchAndroid. Whereas Metropolis only included 7 songs ArchAndroid has given consumers more bang for their buck with 18 songs.
This Atlanta based but Kansas born singer was once an aspiring Broadway performer. This past ambition can be heard through her big vocals and on stage dramatizations.
Janelle Monae has used musical elements from cabaret, funk, rock, hip hop, R&B and even big band. In order to bring her artistic vision to life Monae enlisted the help of Charles Joseph II and Dr Nathaniel Irvin II on 15 of the 18 listed tracks. Monae’s album begins with a medley of up tempo tunes which seamlessly flow into one another, the best example of this being the transition from Dance or Die to Faster and then Locked inside. Monae not only uses different combinations in music but also in her stage shows and most prominently in her appearance. Sporting a pompadour and suit 24/7 is not a look many women can pull off but Monae manages to do it while still maintaining her femininity.
The album highlights the influences of artists such as ABBA,Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson on Monae’s sound. Oh,Maker reminds one of the arrangement and vocal styles of ABBA accompanied with Monae’s use of haunting backing echoes. There is also lyrical depth in the album, topics such as love are not written to sound like the highly synthed lust ridden lyrics of many of today’s pop stars, instead it is looked at from a more intellectual yet vulnerable point of view. Highlights include Tight Rope, Cold War, Locked Inside and Neon Valley Street.
Monae also proves to be successful at both dance and ballad type songs. Janelle’s collaborations on the album include renowned hip hop artists Big Boy on Tightrope and poet Saul Williams on Dance or die, Deep Cotton on 8721 and Montreal on Make the bus.
As the album comes to a close we are reminded that the album is meant to be visualized as one ongoing stage performance from the applause in the introductory song Suite II Overture to the closing track BaBopByeYa.
By Ntchindi Shumba