The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III) (released May 18, 2010)
I’ve been listening to this album for a while, and I realized I need to write something about it on here. There’s actually quite a few albums I want to write about. It’s kind of fun…like, which album do I get to dedicate myself to and listen to next (all at once)!
Okay, truthfully, I haven’t listened to the lovely Janelle Monáe for about 3 or 4 weeks, but about 8 weeks ago I had a mad love affair with her album (The ArchAndroid) and I think Sarah thought it was a little much. But its just a damn good album.
- Suite II Overture
- Dance Or Die (Feat. Saul Williams)
- Locked Inside
- Sir Greendown
- Cold War
- Tightrope (Feat. Big Boi)
- Neon Gumbo
- Oh, Maker
- Come Alive (The War Of The Roses)
- Mushrooms & Roses
- Suite III Overture
- Neon Valley Street
- Make The Bus (Feat. Of Montreal)
- 57821 (Feat. Deep Cotton)
- Say You’ll Go
As the album title suggests, this is parts II and III of a four-part concept series known as Metropolis. Part I was released individually prior to this album, and it introduces Cindi Mayweather, who is an android fighting against her society. Sounds wild, right? And if she succeeds in the fight, it means freedom for all androids! HURRAY! Apparently its based on a movie of the same name (Metropolis) that was released in 1927. Wild! But really, according to Janelle Monáe, the album alludes to the freedom from enslavement of all minorities. A very powerful message mixed into a multi-genre album.
What immediately struck me about Monáe was her live performance! She can sing, she moves, she’s got a unique, funky, 50s-60s kind of look with a contemporary twist…and its cool. And to add to that, her album is just under 70 minutes of fantastic, mostly-upbeat music with elements of funk, jazz, rock, a little bit of James Brown-esque twist, and some brass mixed in too. Its a groovy album that makes you want to dance. And that’s exactly what Monáe sets out to do – challenge you with powerful lyrics, and also get you moving. If you feel something and think something as a result of her music, then she has succeeded. So what’s her style? Who knows!? Its a mix. I don’t even know if you can identify one specific style, since there are so many elements to it. I guess its Pop. Its Funk. Its got a whole lot of soul. And then a bunch of newer, android-like elements, for lack of a better explanation.
Her tracks fit seamlessly together (for some of them, they literally meld together with an almost indistinguishably transition point). And the sound keeps moving you deeper and deeper into the album, keeping your interest, and actually continues with the pace of an exciting action movie.
So you have this incredibly explorative, uplifting, exciting, dance-worthy, rock-out kind of music that is all topped off with tracks that are empowering and inspirational. In ‘Locked Inside’, Monáe sings about the future, saying “When I look into the future / I see danger in it’s eyes / Hearts of hatred rule the land”, and ends with the repetitive realization that she can “make a change”. Its a message that resounds loud and clear over the beautiful masterpiece that supplements the message.
That’s what I love about this album: the music is incredibly powerful and has so much unique exploration happening in the instrumentation, but it never overrides the powerful lyrics. The most incredible part about the album is that you always notice the message. And to me, in an album with so much happening, that is the most incredible feat – to achieve a perfect harmony between the orchestrations and the lyrics…and you STILL make people want to dance. I frigging love it.
Tightrope (Feat. Big Boi)
And even more, here’s the kick-ass video released by Monáe for her song ‘Tightrope’. She’s got a ton of talent, and I can’t wait to see what we see from her on part IV of the Metropolis series.