Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid
Genre-bending soul freak Janelle Monáe’s debut EP, Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), only suggested her potential, but on her first full-length, the ambitious, sprawling The ArchAndroid, she demonstrates the extent of her powers. As the subtitle “Suites II And III” on the cover suggests, this album indeed continues her futuristic liberate-the-oppressed allegory that she began on Metropolis. Yet like many great concept albums, following along with the story, which in this case regards Monáe’s 28th-century robot clone, isn’t necessary. Rather, it adds to the richness and depth of the album. Musically, Monáe is just as ambitious, and there is much to savor. Her command of the several styles she explores here is as stunning as it is effortless. She turns it up for the funky “Tightrope,” cools it down for the spacy soul of “Sir Greendown” and the Funkadelic-inspired “Mushrooms & Roses,” and has fun with the warped pop of “Wondaland.” The fact that all of these songs seem like logical extensions of each other rather than forced eclecticism is all the more impressive. The only real exception is the of Montreal collaboration, “Make The Bus,” which doesn’t quite fit in with the rest here. The ArchAndroid‘s wild ambitions, both lyrically and musically, can initially make the album seem daunting, but its accessibility and cohesiveness fight against this tendency. Rewarding more and more upon each listen, this is one of the best albums of the year.