The ArchAndroid The ArchAndroid

Álbumes

Janelle Monáe Janelle MonáeThe ArchAndroid

8.6 / 10

Janelle Monáe  The ArchAndroid

BAD BOY RECORDS / ATLANTIC

This latest talent signing by Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Sean Puffy Combs, or whatever the hell he calls himself now, earns him some points. After Cassie’s very discreet debut, and considering the lack of female names with any weight behind them on the roster at Bad Boy Records, Diddy can count himself lucky that he’s found himself a jewel. Nevertheless, the merit doesn’t belong to him to the extra-talented main character of the story: Janelle Monáe. A theatre student, prodigious singer, composer, and accomplished dancer, all before the age of 25. How is the money going to be spread around fairly if the talent is handed out like this? She’s also the star of the story behind this “The ArchAndroid,” where Monáe plays Cindi Mayweather, the divine messenger on whom the salvation of the citizens of Metropolis depends. Sort of like Jesus Christ, the latest cylon, and a Bond girl all rolled up into one. The story starts in 2007 with the first suite, “ Metropolis Suite I of IV: The Chase,” an EP that Bad Boy re-launched in 2008, after Diddy set his eye on her and it was nominated for a Grammy.“The ArchAndroid” is made up of the second and third parts of this conceptual album. A total of seventy minutes designed to place the listener in the centre of a filmic super-production. Monáe refers to this album as an early James Bond space adventure, a definition that is more or less accurate. But on the trip, you also find endless other references as well. From The Cotton Club (and not only for the tap dancers’ outfits, very similar to those of Janelle and her Wondaland Band), to “Grease,” with a touch of “Dreamgirls,” and even a nod to the Disney factory. How do they do this? With an exceptional and monumental production, musicians who have spent a lot of time together, and a voice that is highly prepared and chameleonic. I made the mistake of thinking that this would be like a female “ Stankonia.” The blame should really go to the first single, “ Tightrope” and its video, with the same genetic code as the legendary “ Hey Ya!” However, her mentor Big Boi does show his hand on “ Tightrope” and in the polyrhythmic “ Cold War,” the two cuts where the OutKast stamp is evident.On the part one of the album, the second suite, Janelle Monáe lays out all of her vocal alter egos. In “Dance or Die” she starts her engines with agile, linear rhymes that flow into her more soulful side, with two cuts that are wonderful. First comes “ Faster,” a pineapple candy for your ears, feet, and hands. Then comes “ Locked Inside,” which reminds me of Stevie Wonder or early solo Michael Jackson, with a tropical touch to the instrumentation. After this demonstration of Motown lineage, the last thing you expect is to find Monáe emulating Karen Carpenter or Simon & Garfunkel in pristine 60’s pop ballads or beatific folk. But that’s what “ Sir Greendown” sounds like, and the intro to “ Oh Maker,” or the brilliant “ 57821,” which sounds like it was taken out of a Catholic chorus songbook. It’s not at all a predictable move to find soundtrack orchestration in the overtures of the two suites, or in “ BaBopByeYa,” an 8-minute cut that majestically closes the album, rendering homage to the most authentic agent 007, when Sean Connery was playing the role and John Barry was taking care of the music.The opportunities to shake your groove thing like in “Tightrope” are limited to “Cold War” and “ Come Alive (The War Of The Roses),” both of which can bring out that acrobatic rock dancer we all have way down deep inside. The artist also handles herself with ease on these tracks, projecting and tearing her voice like the classic rock greats. We must also add her electropop incursion with Of Montreal to the string of references, influences, and styles; they appear without too much impact on “ Make the Bus,” but manage to fit their sound into the overall idea of the album. This is precisely one of the virtues of “The ArchAndroid.” Janelle Monáe not only manages to adapt her voice to the different stylistic stages on which the album is played out, but she also gets the context, the music, and the collaborations to adapt to her and her image. There is nothing out of place in this album: the sound fits in with the concept, the concept with the artist, and the artist with the sound. “The ArchAndroid” has a real possibility of becoming the “ The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” of our decade, unless Hill returns from her Rastafari abduction before the end of the decade. Mónica Franco

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