I’ve finally got around to catch up on The ArchAndroid, the debut album of the incredible Janelle Monáe. The Electric Lady, Monáe’s sophomore effort, simply blew my mind, so I was really cautious about approaching the previous record of hers. After few spins I could safely say that my worries were completely unnecessary, as the singer has immense talent and amazing artistic vision. The ArchAndroid is a powerful and satisfying listen which sets the ground for its even greater follow-up.
The ArchAndroid blends soul, folk, electro-pop, funk and David Bowie’s kind of artsy rock storytelling into a comprehensible picture of futuristic world and the tales of love and fight against the machine.
It features 18 songs, which range from classical music overtures (Suite II Overture), groovy rhythmical tracks in the tradition of James Brown (Tightrope), folk (Oh, Maker), soulful ballads (Say You’ll Go), straight-out rockers (Cold War), the psychedelic (Mushrooms & Roses), to the experimental messing around (Neon Gumbo).
I don’t think it makes much sense but the album cover and art reminds me of the movie Stargate starring Kurt Russell. Pyramids and advanced technology, duh. Just like in the succeeding LP it contains the note to the listener, which gives us some clues regarding the story.
As expected, I can’t help comparing The ArchAndroid to The Electric Lady. What’s even worse, the fact that I did not listen to these albums chronologically makes my judgment very subjective, especially when such an epic concept prevails throughout Janelle Monáe’s albums. The Electric Lady seems tighter as a record and offers more polished sound. The ArchAndroid is definitely more eclectic genre-wise, it involves more experimentations with the sound. Tracks like aforementioned Mushrooms & Roses and Neon Gumbo stand out a lot, because of their quirkiness and non-uniform style.
I will not meticulously discuss Monáe’s vocal power or expression, as she’s one of the finest singers I’ve come across to this point – this woman is a dynamite. When she performed at Letterman’s Late Show he said ‘she’s the hardest working woman in show business’, and I believe he made a good point.
Although I did suggest at the beginning that The Electric Lady is ‘greater’ than The ArchAndroid, the difference between the two is not as huge as for example between The Matrix and its sequels. On The Electric Lady Janelle perfected every minute detail which wasn’t already flawless on the debut album.
The ArchAndroid is truly a wonderful work with great replay value.
And the superb Say You’ll Go just got stuck in my head and it’s going to take a while before I start to function normally without the daily dose of it.