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Review: Janelle Monae - 'The ArchAndroid'

A Musical Kaleidoscope

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating
User Rating 5 Star Rating (1 Review)

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Review: Janelle Monae - 'The ArchAndroid'
The first official full-length debut album by Janelle Monae is like a musical version of a kaleidoscope: it's filled with patterns that emerge then shift and transform into something entirely new. The ArchAndroid, which was released in the U.S. on May 18, 2010, has strong pop and classical music elements in it's very diverse musical foundation. The album's first single, "Tightrope," is a funky Soul-meets-hip-hop number, but anyone expecting the entire album to follow this pattern will be quite surprised, because "Tightrope" is definitely the exception rather than the rule here.

Diverse, Eclectic

Janelle Monae's ArchAndroid chronicles the adventures of Cindi Mayweather, a futuristic android on the planet Metropolis. And the music is occasionally as out there as the album's concept. "Dance Or Die," featuring poet Saul Williams, is a funk-rock jam; "Locked Inside" is a '70s disco-styled track; and "Sir Greendown" is a '50s era doo-wop soundalike. Then there's "Cold War," which is highly reminiscent of OutKast's year 2000 hip-hop track "B.O.B (Bombs Over Baghdad)." The OutKast connection is to be expected, since Janelle was discovered by half of the rap duo, Big Boi (he also appears on "Tightrope"). But much of the music here is very unlike anything that's been tried on an R&B or pop album in decades, if at all. "Come Alive (the War of the Roses)," is a zoot suit/swing music era soundalike, and "Mushrooms and Roses" sounds like something that Funkadelic might've recorded back in their 1970s heyday.

But maybe the most astounding thing about the album is that at only 24 years of age, Janelle has the talent, creativity and imagination to craft such a diverse, eclectic album. The ArchAndroid is more than an album; it's like a soundtrack to Janelle's wildest science fiction fantasies. This is an album that might take you awhile to get drawn into, but once you are, you really begin to appreciate it's numerous layers. Despite the success of "Tightrope," this isn't really a singles-driven album; it's an ambitious, 70-minute musical story that's meant to be listened to from beginning to end - repeatedly - for you to fully appreciate it's creative depth.

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