Album Review: Janelle Monáe – The Archandroid

May 18, 2010

Concept: The second and third suites of a Metropolis style sci-fi concept arch, during which the android protagonist realizes she’s the One, and prepares to overthrow The Big Brother Matrix Man. Big Boi, Saul Williams, Of Montreal, and Deep Cotton join in.

Sound:  Well, there’s nothing wrong with the album. In sum, it’s a kaleidoscope of pop; Monáe cannot be accused of homogeneity, and her voice morphs tactfully to suit it all. The songs are not weighted by the concept either…they’ll fit right in if shuffled into a playlist. The album nevertheless falls short of being a great one. The songs each remain very much a cameo, none a fully-fledged scene, consistently opting for textural rather than structural flexibility with the scant but formidable exceptions of the classical interludes. While all tantalizing, to hear thirty seconds of a track is pretty comparable to hearing the whole. It could be argued that Stevie Wonder had much the same approach in Songs In the Key of Life, but Monáe’s jams (if you see fit to dub them as such) certainly do not match his for experimentalism or pure melodic imagination. Her aim is admirable and true, and it pretty much had to fall short in the wider scope of musical standards.

Lyrics: While Monáe’s voice is versatile, from smooth crooning to a nimble staccato flow and plenty more, her lyrics are thoroughly tired, and her rhyme schemes could use a lot more work period.

Concept: Seeking to live up to influences such as Wonder, Bowie, and Outkast, Monáe has a lot of work to do. This is a worthy milestone in that effort. (♦♦♦½)

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