Sunday, May 30, 2010

Album Review: Janelle Monae "The ArchAndroid"

How do you put Janelle Monae into words? You can't, really. I first became acquainted with this unique artist through her Metropolis: The Chase Suite EP, which serves as the first of four suites in Ms. Monae's Metropolis series. The ArchAndroid, her full-length debut, is made up of the second & third Metropolis suites, & if you haven't completely dived into Janelle's world, now is the time. Janelle's style may be a little out there, but her pure tone & outside-the-box compositions are what attract me to her. Love it or hate it, The ArchAndroid is undeniably an impressive piece of work.

"Suite II Overture": This instrumental gets you in the proper mind-set for the suite to come. No complaints here.

"Dance Or Die" (ft. Saul Williams): It's interesting that the first real taste you get of Janelle on the album is the only time she really raps. That said, she does it well! 5/5

"Faster": Keeping with the uptempo vibe, this one's a very nice display of her creativity. 5/5

"Locked Inside": This song wraps up the upbeat-fest that kicks off the set well. 5/5

"Sir Greendown": A gorgeous ballad that appropriately displays her gorgeous tone. I almost wish it was longer! 5/5

"Cold War": Janelle doesn't take long to get back to jamming. This fun track is juxtaposed well by its lyrics. 5/5

"Tightrope" (ft. Big Boi): Being the album's first single, you probably know by now that it's frikkin'-frakkin' awesome! 5/5

"Neon Gumbo": To my knowledge, this is a portion of The Chase Suite's "Many Moons" backwards. It works just fine for an interlude. Nothing wrong with it. 5/5

"Oh, Maker": She slows it down again with this one & the result is pretty good. She hasn't gone wrong yet! 4.5/5

"Come Alive (The War Of The Roses)": I don't know about this song. Janelle rocks out on it, which would be fine, but I'm not too keen on the screaming. It's not horrible though. 3/5

"Mushrooms & Roses": To close out the second suite, she gets a little retro--& more in the style of the former than the latter... if you know what I mean. I'm not in love with the effect on her voice (personal preference, keep in mind), but generally, I like the song. 4/5

"Suite III Overture": An interesting way to kick off the third suite. A little on the stranger (in a good way) side as compared to the intro at the start of the album.

"Neon Valley Street": Very pretty & cool at the same time. 5/5

"Make The Bus" (ft. Of Montreal): This song is bad. In a bad way. I can't even tell when Janelle is singing! 1/5

"Wondaland": Now THIS is whimsical done well. Sweetness. 5/5

"57821" (ft. Deep Cotton): Another track with a throwback feel to it, which, while decent, is apparently not exactly my cup of tea when it comes to Ms. Monae. The challenge with this one is that it's elevator music-y (Weird to hear about her, huh?!), so I have to pay extra-close attention to it or it'll fade into the background. 3.5/5

"Say You'll Go": This song has some of the most beautiful music & vocals in it, I swear! It's funny because you wouldn't think she could truly pull this kinda track off if you just listened to the preceding song, yet she does it brilliantly here! 5/5

"BabopbyeYa": I guess I lied to you just a little bit because this one has a retro feel to it, but it's great! Well, the first part, that is. This track has multiple personalities, as it also sort of serves as the album's outro. It's long enough though (almost nine minutes!) that there's plenty of room. 5/5

To me, there is a distinct difference between Suite II & Suite III, with the second being more uptempo overall & the third having a more laid back feel to it. I would also have to say that I prefer Suite II, as it's more consistent. Due to it's vibe, Suite III could easily seem like it's full of tracks that should've been left on the cutting room floor, but I tried not to let myself look at it that way & I managed to find some treasures (see: "Neon Valley Street", "Say You'll Go"). That said--& her performances are perfect evidence of this--Janelle really shines (more often anyway) with the upbeat flair she delivers on Suite II. Overall, I personally find the many different sides of the multi-talented Janelle Monae that The ArchAndroid displays quite charming... & I'm sure you will too.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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