A world of her own device

Twitter has value as background noise, maybe. On the other hand, I’ve picked up on rather a lot of interesting stuff by occasionally paying attention.

Last fall, a friend mentioned an album he was blasting at the moment, and I decided to ask the details. The artist was unknown to me, and the title was inscrutable: The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III), by Janelle Monáe. He sent me a link to a YouTube video of a cut: this one, in fact. “It’s a concept album,” he said, “the sort they don’t do anymore.”

I looked at the video, asked if it was representative of the whole album. “You really have to hear the whole thing,” he said.

Amazon coughed up eighteen MP3s (on sale!), an hour and ten minutes in all, and I sat down to listen. The tags said “R&B,” but The ArchAndroid defied categorization:

On Janelle Monáe’s major-label debut, the 25-year-old, ragingly talented singer and dancer from Atlanta by way of Kansas City synthesizes a wealth of influences — Afro-futurism, glam rock reminiscent of David Bowie’s Spiders From Mars, ’50s easy listening, MGM-style orchestrations, bebop jazz and slickster-hip hop.

Which is only the half of it, maybe. There’s so much going on that I haven’t been able to come up with anything resembling a coherent review; I can just about figure the storyline, which involves a fembot in a Fritz Lang-y world, but that’s about it.

Until, of course, it dawned on me that since this was Suites II and III, there must perforce be a Suite I. Which there is: an EP from 2007, five tracks introducing the character and her milieu. “Many Moons” is track three:

So the next order of business is to buy this EP and consider the whole — unless, of course, she comes out with Suite IV, which I’m told is in the works. Doesn’t matter. If she keeps sounding like this I’m good until Suite XCVI.





2 comments

  1. Michelle Hines »

    2 February 2011 · 6:33 pm

    I quite like this….and of course there is the token vampire keeping in theme with all things trendy, which I haven’t quite caught on to. You doing okay down the road? Need anything?

  2. CGHill »

    2 February 2011 · 7:33 pm

    I’m holding out nicely, although the work is piling up in my absence. Having the longest driveway on the block is a decided disadvantage when the snow blows in.

    Monáe’s Metropolis EP, which incorporates Suite I, is at Amazon for $5.99 with two bonus tracks, so I have some downloading to do.

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