I’ve recently become aware of Janelle Monae and she seems to be a remarkable talent. Remarkable to the point where I feel that I must make others aware of her as well by writing this post that you must be reading right now.
I’m not an expert on her. In fact, I know very little about her except that she puts on quite a show (search for her live performances and music videos on YouTube) and her debut album, The ArchAndroid, sounds like about the freshest thing I’ve heard from the world of R&B in approximately 40 years.
It’s an intriguing genre hopping album. To give you an idea of what I mean by genre hopping; there’s a song on it, “Mushrooms & Roses,” that reminds me of Super Furry Animals and Black Moth Super Rainbow. There’s another song, “Make The Bus,” that features Of Montreal. And there’s plenty of songs (most obviously “Tightrope” which features Big Boi from Outkast) that are influenced by James Brown.
There’s a song, “Neon Gumbo,” that features backwards vocals and there’s “Oh, Maker” which sounds like a combination of folk music with soul music (yes, somehow this works.) And did I mention the two orchestral overtures? How about that big band influenced final track? The arrangement on that one is completely tripped out.
This is a very ambitious album, and amazingly it manages to not collapse under the weight of all of that ambition. It works (at least on initial listens, I don’t know yet how well it will age of course.)
Please do not be dissuaded by the association with P. Diddy/Sean Combs (he signed her to his label, Bad Boy Records.) Janelle Monae is definitely worth checking out with your own two ears.