Janelle Monae Buys Into Independence
The fluidly eclectic ArchAndroid stands in contrast to the many musical updates of Metropolis, most notably Giorgio Moroder's famously Eurobotic 1984 version, but remains faithful to the movie's themes. "Metropolis: The Chase Suite [her EP released last year] dealt with an android. The android represents the other to me," explains Monae. "I can personally relate to the other by just my gender and race. This one is the follow-up; she had fallen in love with a human, and she was running. She finds out that she is the ArchAndroid, who is the mediator between the haves and the have-nots. This album deals with self-realization, embracing the things that make you unique. I write it from the perspective of the have-nots, people who are not necessarily victims, but who are out there working every day, dealing with life's problems. This music is motivational and meant to be inspirational."
And Bad Boy, the company that corporatized hip-hop into a major commercial force, is down with the arch concept? Monae points out that she's firmly in control: "I have my own recording label, the Wondaland Arts Society, and I had it when I met Sean Combs. He was really intrigued and excited that it was self-contained. Creatively, he loved everything we were doing and didn't want to be involved. He just wanted to expose what was going on in the underground."
Monae has been helped out by OutKast, with whom she appeared in their Idlewild project, over the years; Big Boi makes an appearance on the first single, the off-kilter, horn-driven soul of "Tightrope." "They've knocked down some doors for me as an artist, to come in, being a woman of colour, to experiment and still be respected and recognized on a national level. We're like family, they've given me a lot of advice."
Monae is gearing up for an even more thorough realization of the concept with the Wondaland team of artists and writers. "I'm shooting a video for every song on the ArchAndroid so we'll be creating a movie with a very beautiful narrative. We also have a graphic novel coming out. We'll also try and take this show on Broadway."
She will have reached a lot of ears by then, thanks to a summer touring schedule that careens from gigs with Erykah Badu to Lilith Fair, then shows with ArchAndroid guests Of Montreal. Monae is clearly able to synthesize big ideas in ways that draw in a wide range of listeners, but she insists it's not about striving to be unusual. "It's not about doing anything rock or classical for the sake of doing it ― it has to be great. It's about just celebrating our differences, and to freely express ourselves as we see fit."
FeaturesMar 19, 2015
While most young people spend their teenage years repudiating their parents, French-Cuban fraternal twins Lisa-Kaindť and Naomi Diaz, known ...
FeaturesFeb 04, 2015
Jazmine SullivanShow Time
"Just living for a while. Just getting my life back together." That's how Philly-raised R&B songstress Jazmine Sullivan describes her return...
FeaturesSep 28, 2015
Empress OfPortrait of the Artist
Not 15 minutes into my phone call with Lorely Rodriguez, the mastermind behind electro-pop project Empress Of, a stranger passing her front ...
FeaturesSep 25, 2015
OughtThe Void Is Listening
After releasing their acclaimed debut album More Than Any Other Day in 2014, Ought found themselves touring practically non-stop, playing sh...
FeaturesSep 25, 2015
Little SimzThe Fame Monster
UK MC Little Simz has released a slew of free music via stellar mixtapes like Blank Canvas, E.D.G.E. and her Age 101 series in collaboration...
FeaturesSep 24, 2015
New Order'Complete' Return
New Order never officially broke up. And chances are they never will. But after co-founder/bassist Peter Hook left acrimoniously in 2007, th...
FeaturesSep 24, 2015
When UK duo Disclosure broke in 2013, their house music-indebted debut full-length seemed perfectly timed to both align with the zeitgeist a...
NewsSep 24, 2015
Steven A. Clark on Being 'The Lonely Roller'
North Carolina-born/Miami-based R&B artist Steven A. Clark signed with Secretly Canadian more than a year ago, and the fruits of that new re...