Photo by G.
I’ve been a fan of Janelle Monae for several years now and I’ve seen her perform live 3 times. I think her performances are great as she has an amazing voice, she dances (often moonwalks) and sometimes paints a picture (literally) as she is performing. Her first full length album, The ArchAndroid, will be released on May 18, 2010 and I’ve been lucky enough to have the record a full week prior to its release! The album picks up where “The Chase Suite,” her first EP leaves off.
The ArchAndroid begins with a 2 and a half minute overture and then runs right into “Dance or Die” (featuring Saul Williams) whose verses feature Monae speaking/rapping fast with a sung chorus “Oh these dreams are forever.” The continuously mixed album then runs into a song called “Faster,” which will have you getting out of your chair to shake your ass a little. “Locked Inside” follows and it samples the opening beat to “Rock with You” by Michael Jackson. It’s another uptempo track. She slows things down with “Sir Greendown,” a short contemplative track that is just over 2 minutes. “Cold War,” brings back the beats and features the lyric “this is a cold war / you better know what you’re fighting for.” The first single “Tightrope” featuring Outkast’s Big Boi is next and is another song that will get you in the dance mood. “Neon Gumbo” follows and is basically a minute and a half segue that features backwards vocals. “Oh, Maker” is a slower track that once again showcases Monae’s great voice. “Come Alive (the War of The Roses)” is a fast rocker that is a song that you will want to listen to over and over again. If Janelle’s record label is reading this, please release this as the next single – the guitar, tempo and vocals = HIT SONG! “Mushrooms and Roses” closes out the suite and it’s a slower track that you’d expect to hear on a classic rock album and not that of an R&B singer. Go on girl!
The 3rd suite intro is next and could fit in as part of any movie soundtrack. “Neon Valley Street,” is a down-tempo track that features the lyric “may this song reach your heart.” There’s also a great guitar solo towards the end of the track. It blends into “Make the Bus” featuring wacky rockers Of Montreal. Surprisingly, the track is cohesive as Of Montreal is well known for songs that change genres multiple times in the span of 4 minutes. Monae is pretty much reduced to a background singer on this track, but it’s still quite good. “Wondaland” is next and it’s a mid-tempo track that has an ethereal quality to it. “57821” features Deep Cotton and it sounds like it could be the B-side to “Scarborough Fair” by Simon and Garfunkel! “Say You’ll Go” is a slow song that features a really pretty piano solo with angelic choral vocals at the end of the track. “Babopbyeya,” is the album’s finale and longest track (clocking in at 8:48). At times, it sounds like it’s a James Bond theme song and at other moments, it makes you want to close your eyes and get lost in the orchestration.
The ArchAndroid has it all – rock, pop, R&B, classical music and amazing vocals. You definitely feel like you’ve been taken on a journey at the conclusion of the record. According2g, that’s a good thing. I am curious to see how the millisecond-attention span generation will react to this album because it’s not filled with obvious radio hits. Is the world ready for a smartly produced and written R&B album or will they just hold out for mediocre pop songs that are not even written by the artist who sings them!? Only time will tell. The ArchAndroid by Janelle Monae is out on May 18, 2010.