Album Review: Janelle Monae – The Archandroid
Kansas born singer Janelle Monae is no stranger to dramatics. Born and raised in Kansas City she moved to New York at an early age to enroll in the prestigious and prolific, American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Deciding to leave behind her aspirations of a career on Broadway, Monae left the Big Apple for pastures new and within a couple of years found herself joining forces with Outkast member Big Boi, starting her own label The Wonderland Arts Society, and with a lucrative signing to P Diddy’s label, Bad Boy Records.
Roping in inspiration from her past Broadway dreams, Monae is considered a concept artist with a visionary take on her art form as first heard in her debut EP Metropolis which introduced us to Cindi Merriweather, a futuristic android whose creation garnished the singer with a Grammy award nomination for her efforts.
With the release of the suit donning divas latest offering, The ArchAndroid, Monae delivers yet another incredible record, this time packed with 18 numbers of well crafted and refined gems from the industry’s next musical genius.
Monae has got all bases covered here. Come Alive (War Of The Roses) jumps flawlessly between an electric guitar heavy screamer showing off the singers enviable range and a swinging funk monster.
The two neo-classical suites, Suite II Overture and Suite III Overture, devide the record in two parts and are cinematic, epic soundscapes that give way to the eclectic ride that is The Archandroid.
The rewound spacey interlude Neon Gumbo is a contrasting addition to the album and is nestled into the middle of the collection, easily finding its own place.
Tightrope is the standout on the record and features musical genius Big Boi of Outkast fame and a man Monae has looked up to since her early beginnings in music. Released as the headline single for the record, it is a display of what is to come on the Janelle Monae front and is bound to be one of this summers biggest tracks.
The psychedelic Mushrooms & Roses is another highlight on the album with a haunting feel of 1960’s haze.
The singers roots don’t seem to be fastened in any specific genre. There are no limitations to Monae’s abilities and this is almost a statement in The Archandroid with the singer swinging between Afro punk, hip hop, jazz, pop and indie and doing it all with faultless precision.
You will find everything on this record. Janelle sublimely dishes out incredible and quickly delivered lashings of hip hop and rap on tracks like the African infused Dance Or Die which features port Saul Williams and could give Missy Elliott a good run for her money.
Aside from the genre hopping numbers on The Archandroid, it is Monae’s elastic voice that is a selling point in itself. She makes the art-form seem almost effortless, bouncing from smooth soul numbers like the gorgeous and pop controlled Oh, Maker, a track that Alicia Keys would be envious of, the trance inducing Sir Greendown and the whispery and echoed Say You’ll Go to the articulated treats of Tightrope and the ever changing nine minute closer BaBopBye Ya with lashings of whistles, piano bar jazz stylings and enough funk to last you a lifetime.
The Archandroid managed to surprise me at every corner leaving me unexpected of what’s to come next and it’s refreshing to say the least to discover a record that can do that amongst the releases of late. It’s unpredictability and variety are what will appeal to a larger scale of music lovers. If Metrpololis offered a whiff of Grammy glory for Monae then The Archandroid should seal that winners envelope with justification this time around.