♫ Janelle Monáe – Cold War
Kansas City native Janelle Monáe originally planned to pursue a career on Broadway but instead began focusing on music. By 2003, she had moved to Atlanta and recorded a self-released album, The Audition, which introduced the whole Metropolis/Cindi Mayweather concept.
Four years later, Sean “Diddy” Combs signed the singer/songwriter to his Bad Boy label, offering an official release for her Suite I of IV: The Chase EP which earned Janelle a Grammy nomination for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for her single “Many Moons”.
Janelle disclosed last year of the deal with Diddy (which he considers one of the most important signings of his career) that it’s not the traditional label-artist kind; it’s more of a partnership. And it seems to be a fruitful one with the release of her first full-length album, The ArchAndroid (pronounced Ark Android), hitting stores today.
Executive-produced by Nate Wonder, Chuck Lightning, Janelle and Diddy with co-executive production from Big Boi, The ArchAndroid is one of the most impressive debuts in recent years, dare I say on par with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. A fusion of funk, pop, rock and soul, the album marks the next chapter for the pompadoured performer’s alter-ego, Cindi Mayweather from the planet Metropolis, creating what she considers an “emotion picture”.
“The ArchAndroid is very inspiring for me. We wanted the story to be very compelling, but we also wanted to make sure that the journey we’re taking people on makes them feel like they’re watching one big emotion picture,” Janelle explains. The 18-track, 70-minute soundtrack, which is parts two and three of a four-part series, is near perfection with its lush instrumentation and pulsating beats, not to mention the varying vocal ranges of the album’s star. Imagine it: a “singer” who can actually sing.
Following the orchestral “Suite II Overture”, the album kicks off with the Afrobeat-influenced “Dance or Die” with Saul Williams. The 60′s psychedelic rock-inspired “Sir Greendown” flows seamlessly (much like the entire Suite II) into the next track, “Cold War” followed by the first single, “Tight Rope” featuring Big Boi, which Janelle reminds us “When you get elevated/ they love it or they hate/ keep dancing on them haters.” And that’s exactly what is done in the single’s video, which she explained is a tutorial on how to make it through life without going insane.
The juxtaposition of “Oh Maker”, fashioned in the styling of contemplative thought, with the beat-driven and scream-filled “Come Alive (The War of the Roses)” leads to the Woodstock-influenced “Mushrooms & Roses”, marking the end of Suite II. Another overture introduces us to “Neon Valley Street”, a smooth, modern R&B track, followed by “Make the Bus”, perhaps the album’s lowest point with indie pop/rock band Of Montreal. While the album’s final track, the Shirley Bassey-esque “BaBopByeYa”, is nearly nine minutes long, you won’t want it to end. Unfortunately,
Cindi Mayweather Janelle Monáe belts out the last words: “I must go.” If you must…
Just promise us Suite IV will be as epic, magical and creative as The ArchAndroid.