June Artist – Janelle Monáe (Part 2)
This post is part of my Deep Dive Music Project. This month I’m listening to some music by Janelle Monáe. Be sure to check out the Janelle Monáe playlist I have on Spotify. Check out Part 1 of this post here.
The following scenario keeps playing out during this project. I listen to the music of the artist I’ve chosen for the month, and then I think “oh shit this is fantastic, why have I not listened to this artist (or to more of this artist’s work) before this?” This scenario can be applied to this month’s artist Janelle Monáe because her music is just great. And I knew of Janelle Monáe, and had heard that her music was generally well received by critics and fans, but part of me is listening to the music this month and thinking, “this artist needs to be way more popular in the general public.
Of course, another part of me also knows that her music is a little bit more niche than most radio friendly hip-hop and rap (but to say Janelle Monáe’s music is just hip-hop and rap is an understatement). This month, probably more than any other in this project so far, I’ve been finding it really imperative to do a full listen of the albums from the first track to the last, without any skips or shuffles. Particularly her EP Metropolis: The Chase Suite Special Edition (2007), The ArchAndroid (2010), and The Electric Lady (2013). This may be because these three albums are all concept albums based around the idea of a future where an android named Cindi Mayweather falls in love with a human Anthony Greendown. This premise introduced in the first song “March of the Wolfhunters” in Metropolis: The Chase Suite where we’re told that because Cindi has fallen in love with a human she must be hunted and destroyed. The other albums follow her journey. The ArchAndroid builds on this concept making Cindi as messianic type character (the one to save the Androids and bring change to this world). Electric Lady further explores themes in the previous album. Like I thought in the previous post Afrofuturism is very much present in Monáe’s. I read online that there will be 7 suites, and Electric Lady has up to Suite 5, so it’ll be interesting to see if Janelle Monáe continues this concept album idea at some point in the future. If not I feel like the final track “What An Experience” from Electric Lady is a great closer for this concept album.
While Dirty Computer isn’t part of the Cindi Mayweather Metropolis concept album it is a concept album in and of itself, with themes of technology, love, sex, women, and sexual identity. Janelle Monáe has publicly come out as pansexual a little while back. Originally had planned to listen to Janelle Monáe in April, but I think with this being Pride month and with Juneteenth becoming a recognized holiday in the US it kind of worked out to feature her music this month.
Usually, I’d feel compelled to write about a few of the songs individually, ones I’ve been repeating like I stated before I feel like these albums are ones to listen to in full. It’s a version of gestalt principles where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And that’s not to say the individual songs are bad, but listening to the full albums is kind of needed at least the first few times. In Janelle Monáe’s you’ll not just hear hip hop and rap, but also funk, psychedelic rock, pastoral folk, neosoul, synth pop and more. And I was surprised to see a variety of artists like Erykah Badu, Prince, Pharrell, Solange, and even Brian Wilson (of the Beach Boys) on several tracks. I had a feeling I’d enjoy the music this month, but I didn’t know how much and how diverse this month’s music would be
I really only have two complaints this month. First, that the song “Givin’ ‘Em what They Love” (featuring Prince) isn’t on Spotify (but is on Janelle Monae’s YouTube). I have feeling it’s some sort of licensing issue and that’s why it’s not on Spotify. The song is great, so be sure to listen to it when you’re listening to Electric Lady (it’s the second track, right after “Suite IV Electric Overture”). And my final complaint is that I just want to listen more of Janelle Monae’s work. So whenever she does release a new single or album I’ll be there to check it out.