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read_me.gif Southern Voice Washington Blade

Janelle Monáe Wants You To Wake Up

We can’t sleep no more

by j. brotherlove

Janelle Monae as Cindi Mayweather

I’ve discussed Janelle Monáe in so many circles that I thought I’d profiled her on this site earlier. My bad. Since Jason name-checked me on the Headroom podcast a couple of weeks ago I figured I should publicly declare my admiration for the artist.

Warning: I get a bit long-winded. But here’s the gist: Please buy Metropolis Suite I of IV: The Chase by Janelle Monáe.

From Underground to Metropolis

Some may remember Atlanta-based Monáe from appearances on Purple Ribbon All-Star’s Compilation Got Purp? Vol. II and Outkast’s Idlewild soundtrack.

Since then Monáe’s built an underground following on black college campuses, known for her frenetic live performances and trademark Mary Jane shoes, black and white uniform, and bouffant hairdo.

On her high-concept debut Metropolis Suite I of IV: The Chase, Janelle Monáe dives into unusual territory. The premise: Monáe stars as Cindi Mayweather, "an alien from outerspace" in year 2719, on the run from cyborgs who want to capture her after the breaking the law by falling in love with a human. You catch all that?

Substance Underneath the Style

Janelle Monae

Powering the ambitious concept is an impressively produced suite of songs that tread the line between pop, hip hop and something else altogether. The combination of insightful lyrics and crisp vocals is undeniably fresh, an eclectic mix of Outkast’s "Hey Yah", Doris Day, Gwen Stefani and classically trained vocals over pop/new wave/hip hop beats.

Also of note, Monáe chose to release her album in four different EPs or "suites", the first being the 5-track EP, The Chase. "Violet Stars Happy Hunting!" is the sock hoppin’ first single, detailing Cindi’s plight; "Many Moons" adds to backstory; while the suite’s centerpiece, "Sincerely Jane", is a cautionary tale will orchestral backup:

Left the city, my momma, she said; "Don’t come back home…" / These kids ‘round killin’ each other, they lost they minds, they gone / They quittin’ school, making babies and can barely read / Some gone off to that war / Lord have mercy on them

Janelle Monáe Singing "Sincerely Jane" at Criminal Records

Elevating Independent Expression

Powered by talented Wondaland Productions (a joint venture with Big Boi), everything from the art direction to the production and her website (even MySpace) is incredibly polished; especially for an independent artist. In fact, after selling over 10,000 units independently, Monae is now entertaining offers by distribution companies.

Monáe gets extra credit for eschewing "nu soul" and "sex vixen" categories. At her interview with Brave Soul Collective (where she discusses everything from being an artist to homosexuality in the black community), Monáe share what drives her to create:

I am driven by the need for change. I have had many nightmares about our future and if we do keep living the way we do, killing the way we do, hating ourselves the way we do, I do believe we are headed to the great road of nowhere. I know that I was put on this earth to lead, not to be perfect, but to lead and display a positive example and that is what I will die trying to do.

For a mere $5.00 you can purchase Metropolis Suite I of IV: The Chase and join the cause. If you choose to purchase through the iTunes Store instead be sure to download the artwork available as a pdf.

pub: 11/28/2007 | previous entry | next entry | feedback x 2 | subscribe

Great recommendation. Her voice reminds me of Jerzee Monet. Since Jerzee has fallen off the scene, Janelle’s eclectic style and voice is a definite welcome for me!! Appreciate you looking out for great music!!

2. Shylle

Just heard Janelle’s Many Moons on MTV and was incredibly impressed! Had to do a google search on her, and that led me to this place. I concur: she’s remarkably talented. No one has struck me with first impressions like that in a long time! Whew!

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