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Janelle Monae - The Archandroid

By: David Lacalamita

Janelle Monae - The Archandroid

Janelle Monae
The Archandroid

(Warner Music)

SOUNDS LIKE: High-octane production value fuelling a fantastic concept driven by a soul-inspired songstress.

The latest release from Kasas City native Janelle Monae is a beautiful and playful concept album that continues to develop the fictional persona she created named Cindi Mayweather, a character partially inspired by the 1927 sci-fi film "Metropolis."  The album is pastiche of modern musical styles that would make Stevie Wonder, Santana, and Beyonce, and the Black Eyed Peas all proud.  Whether she's singing lyrical songs like the jazzy "BoBopByeYa" and the R&B-inspired "Oh, Maker" or tearing up a virtual stage somewhere on night club-worthy tracks like "Cold War", or "Tightrope," Monae is equal to the task, her powerful voice adapting to each style with ease. 

Making it impossible to place this album in any one genre, aside from the diversity of influences from which it draws, is Monae's choice of collaborators, which includes the diverse talents of Big Boi, Of Montreal, Deep Cotton, and Saul Williams, who add their unique touches to her already eclectic sound. 

A number of the tracks are stellar taken independently, but the story here is how it all comes together on the album.  Through some clever arranging, and not a small amount of production magic, each song seems to follow logically from the next.  The "Overture" prepares your ears for some of the themes to come, and little touches like the chorus of "Hallelujah"s at the end of "Wondaland," or the quotation of Debussy's "Clair de Lune" at the end of "Say You'll Go" make transitions easy on the ears.

What limits this album is the very thing that makes it great - the fact that it's a concept album.  Although there are a couple of songs with single potential, there are quite a few more that play a very functional role on the album, which will prevent it from being that album that changes the more you listen to it.  Still, it's a work well worth a listen.

Posted: May 25, 2011

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