Kamilah Taylor
What do Janelle Monáe and Sesame Street have in common?





If you follow me on twitter, you'll know that I've been gushing all week about Janelle Monáe, enough to share some notes while I wrap up thesis writing.



I first found her previous album, Metropolis: The Chase Suite on emusic. It's funny, because it took me a while to place the riff she has in Many Moons. Then I thought to myself why does the song make me think of Sesame Street? She actually used the Pinball music from old school Sesame Street as her melody!

To be fair, I'm almost certain that two friends and last.fm have all been recommending Janelle Monáe. I'm not sure why it took me so long to listen to her, but I do know that she is easily becoming my favorite artist, toppling Natalie Cole, Alicia Keys, Gnarls Barkley, Regina Spektor and maybe even Corinne Bailey-Rae. Maybe it's that she has a little bit of each of those singers wrapped into one package...

Of course I had to find her in one of my excessive months on emusic, and only had 2 credits left, which I spent on Violet Stars Happy Hunting! and Many Moons ...but I listened to the rest of the album on Grooveshark, and it's outstanding. Her imagining of this android suite, the concept is just amazing. She won me over with androids and sesame street. Plus, not only is she incredibly talented, she has a wicked look - check out that pompadour!


After listening to her new album ArchAndroid twice on Grooveshark, I had to have it. At 20 songs it takes several listens before being able to parse each song. My thoughts? Summary: My faves are Locked Inside, Cold War, Tightrope, 57821, Say You'll Go, and BaBopByeYa, but it would be cruel to break away these songs from the album, it must be listened to as a whole.

Suite II Overture: One of my favorite things about Alicia Keys albums with the classical opening songs. Monáe takes that up another notch. I'd love to see her perform with a full orchestra. Genre: Classical/Art Rock.

Dance or Die: This is the first of a trio of songs that go together very well. It's enjoyable and fun, but the other two are definitely better. I appreciate the funk/soul feeling that's found through much of the album but starts here. Genre: Funk/Soul/Dance-punk/Art Rock

Faster: The tempo is literally faster than Dance or Die. Genre: Funk/Soul/Dance-punk/Art Rock

Locked Inside: I think this is the best of the funky trio, most likely because the hook is really catchy: "Oh how, oh how I need you baby, keep me from going crazy, I really need you baby!" There's something about this one that reminds me of Stevie Wonder. Genre: Funk/Soul/Dance-punk/Art Rock

Sir Greendown: I'm lukewarm towards this song... Genre: Funk/Soul/Dance-punk/Art Rock

Cold War: Definitely one of the lyrical highpoints of the album, this without doubt reminds me of Gnarls Barkley's "Going on". "This is a cold war, you better know what you're fighting for. This is a cold war, do you know what you're fighting for?" The rock influence starts to creep in more to the album starting with this song. Genre: Funk/Soul/Dance-punk/Art Rock

Tightrope: What is it about this song that just makes me want to dance? I'm dancing as I write this review for the song! Not surprisingly, she chose this song for her first video from the album. Genre: Funk/Soul/Dance-punk

Neon Gumbo: This is kinda quirky. It's this spacey sampling of Many Moons that sort of works but perhaps will need to grow on me. The indie rock part of the album definitely takes over here.

Oh, Maker: This song alternates between feeling like a folk or indie-rock song and feeling like an R&B or soul song. Monáe doesn't shy away from any genres! Genre: Folk/R&B/Soul/Art Rock

Come Alive (War of the Roses): "That's when I come alive like a schizo running wild. That's when I come alive now let's go wild." Monáe wails and screams her way through this song, which I think is another one that may grow on me. Genre: Dance-punk/Art Rock/Glam Rock/Funk/Soul

Mushrooms & Roses: This song is the culmination of the Rock section and of Suite II. It starts of calmly enough with strings and then a soul/funk bassline, but then there's a crescendo as it marches and wails towards the end. Genre: Funk/Soul/Art Rock/Glam Rock

Suite III Overture: We step back to the classical mode while keeping the melody from the previous song. The mystical/dramatic theme definitely starts there, though we don't really revisit till BaBopByeYa. Genre: Classical/Art Rock

Neon Valley Street: Another song that starts with strings and then a surprisingly ordinary R&B sounding beginning. Genre: R&B/Neo-Soul/Funk/Glam Rock

Make the Bus: I'm lukewarm towards this song as well... Really these 3 songs before 57821 are not my favorites of the album. This song does remind me a bit of Mika. Genre: Psychedelic Pop/Dance-punk/Art Rock/Indie Rock

Wondaland: I'm lukewarm with this song, but it ends on a high note with Hallelujah's that serves to intro an amazing trio of songs, the highlight of the album for me. I think I actually heard a rooster crow and sheep go baa. Genre: Dance-punk/Psychedelic Pop/Art Rock

57821: It actually took me my 3rd listen to identify what this song reminds me of, Scarborough Fair. Genre: Folk/Neo-soul.

Say You'll Go: I gave a little squeal when I caught Claire de Lune in this one. Suffice it to say that I've played it on piano and Debussy is one of my favorite composers. It's the stand out love song of the album for me: "Say you'll go to Nirvana. Will you leave Samsara? In the words of Dhammapada, Who will leave? Who will follow?" And then "Our love will sail in this ark, The world could end outside our window, Let's find forever and write our names in fire on each other's hearts." This is also the song that really showcases Monáe's beautiful voice for me, and then of course when Claire de Lune kicks in around the 4 minute mark with Monáe leaving with this thought: "Love is not a fantasy, it's more for you, you and me". I think I want this to be my wedding song. Genre: Soul/R&B/Art Rock/Classical

BaBopByeYa: This has old movie music written all over it. I don't know if that's a genre, but that's what I think of. There's this great dramatic feeling that I love in songs. Genre: Soul/R&B/Classical/Jazz

Tightrope (Organized Noize Remix) and (Mouche & Big Remix): Even the remixes, which usually I can do without, were enjoyable.

So give ArchAndroid a spin, in fact I'd recommend give it a couple in a row. It'll be worth your while. At a later time I may attempt to go through lyrical meaning of her songs and the overall android storyline. I leave you with some mad dancing in the Tightrope video.

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