Artist; Janelle Monae
Album; The ArchAndroid
Genre; Funk, Soul, R&B, Everything else
Standout Songs; Tightrope, Cold War, Dance or Die, Babopbye Ya, Come Alive,
Highlights; Visionary concept album, Overarching story, unique sound, blend of multiple genres, Stunning vocals
Very few albums leave the impression that Janelle Monae’s “The Arch Android” has left. Monae’s ambitious artistic vision is clearly realized in these 18 dazzling tracks. The Arch Android is a bold concept album that plays out like a sci-fi epic, telling chapters two and three of the story of Monae’s character, Cyndi Mayweather.
The story is both simple, and complex. The year is 3,005, and we find ourselves in the city of Metropolis. Androids are an accepted part of society, however, there is one rule; Androids, lacking human emotion, are forbidden to fall in love. However, Cyndi Mayweather has indeed discovered love for a human. As such, she is scheduled for immediate disassembly, causing her to flee for her very life. Although it may sound like a bad Sci-Fi romance, the story plays out beautifully though Monae’s music. This story began with her debut EP, but The Arch Android picks up with Mayweather on the run, and takes her on a journey through the Metropolis underground, to her eventual rise as a messiah like figure. The story leaves us with a cliffhanger ending, leaving us in anticipation for Monae’s next move.
Although the story is there to entertain fans, it’s not necessary to get her Sci-Fi mythology to understand her music. Each song is brilliantly crafted, and has significance both with and without the overarching story.
Her unique style of music seamlessly blends numerous genres. Although R&B and Funk are the two most apparent sounds, as on her hit, “Tightrope,” you’ll find her taking liberties with almost every genre under the sun. The albums first track, “Dance or Die,” shows off Monae’s impressive rapping skills, while “57821” is a toned down folk song. “Come Alive” shows Monae at her most rocking moment, as she lets out an absolutely stunning wail to this shockingly good fusion of Jazz and Punk. Songs like “Babopbye Ya” just beg to be performed on Broadway, while “Wondaland” and “Locked Inside” are upbeat and funky pop numbers.
Despite the Sci-Fi setting, the only time you’ll never hear an electronic beat, as each of her songs feature the feeling of a live band. Auto-tune is all but absent, minus the Psychedelic rock song “Mushroom’s and Roses,” in which case it is used with a keen sense of artistic purpose.
Few artists are as visionary as Janelle Monae, and I believe that The Arch Android is truly a piece of musical genius. Few artists are able to establish their own identity in a lifetime, as Monae has with her debut album. She has managed to take a grand artistic vision, and make it both accessible, and simply incredible to listen to.