2. Janelle Monae: The ArchAndroid [Big Boi]
As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize that my favorite artists are those that are the most difficult to describe. Janelle Monae is yet another. The ArchAndroid is a concept album inspired by the iconic 1927 sci-fi movie Metropolis. Monae casts herself as messiah to a race of androids, destined to free a society. In accordance with this concept, the songs on ArchAndroid run the gamut of emotions. There’s happiness, sorrow, bewilderment, and even beauty throughout the 18 tracks, and the sum of which is sheer splendor. In fact, considering Monae’s accomplishment here, it’s fair to ask whether she’s actually human. Okay, maybe that’s taking things a bit far, but my point is that she is that one-of-a-kind artist that is on one hand unique and on the other a reinforcement of artists of the past that we all know and love. So let’s just say for a second that she’s not human and in fact some android as the album suggests. I’d be willing to guess that her creator mixed together a potion containing DNA samples from several artists. I’d guess the mix looked something like this:
one part Ella Fitzgerald
one part David Bowie
two parts Prince
two parts Outkast
one part Michael Jackson
a sprinkle of Stevie Wonder and…well you get the point.
The concept of genre-bending pop music is hardly knew. But not since MJ made it commonplace have many done it as well as Monae. While it’s not hard to crank up the distortion on an R&B or rap song, it isn’t exactly easy to pull of a duet with Big Boi on the same album as you mix in Claude DeBussy. Some folks might come away underwhelmed with ArchAndroid, but then that’s probably normal. It’s difficult to appreciate the beauty and magnitude of an album like this if you can’t see it for what it is.
Prime Cuts: Locked Inside, Tightrope, Oh Maker, Be Still