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7 Reasons Janelle Monáe Should Be More Popular

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Janelle Monae

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Author’s Note: I feel like the original spotlight I did on Janelle Monáe last year did not do her justice, so I’m doing another one. Another reason is that I’m tired of reading YouTube comments that say she has no talent.

1. She has created an epic music saga that has science fiction, romance, and sociopolitical commentary.

Beginning with Metropolis Suite 1: The Chase, the story is set in a futuristic world called Metropolis where there is a class system of humans and androids. Humans make up the wealthy while androids make up the working class and poor. The main protagonist of the story is the android Cindi Mayweather, who is sent back in time to free Metropolis from its strife. Cindi’s story begins when she becomes the target of Metropolis’s government for falling in love with a human  named Anthony Greendown.

The albums Metropolis Suite 1: The Chase and The ArchAndroid focus on Cindi’s attempts to evade the authorities, becoming aware of what is going on in the world around her, and realizing how she could change things.

The Electric Lady, Monae’s most recent album, is set before The Archandroid album and tells multiple stories. First, there is Cindi’s past before she fell in love with Anthony Greendown. Then, there are the identities Cindi assumes when she is sent back in time,  Janelle Monae and The Electric Lady. Finally, there is the daily lives of the androids in Metropolis.

With this much creative storytelling, it is impossible to skip a track on her albums.

2. All the albums of The Metropolis saga feature a variety of genres and influences.

Despite being her shortest work so far, Metropolis Suite 1: The Chase, is a great blend of R&B, funk, soul, and operatic elements. The ArchAndroid  is her most eclectic work, featuring classical, pop. rock, jazz,  electronica,  and funk. Finally, The Electric Lady  features different sides to R&B, showing its connection to funk, soul, rock, jazz, and hip-hop.

Collectively, you can hear a variety of musical influences on Monae such as David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Donna Summer, Diana Ross, and Betty Davis (the funk singer).

3. Her music videos are just as creative as her albums.

They work together with the songs to tell the story of Cindi Mayweather and Metropolis. It’s a shame more videos weren’t made for The Archandroid. 

Notable videos:

“Many Moons”– from Metropolis Suite 1: The Chase

“Cold War”– from The ArchAndroid

“Q.U.E.E.N” – from The Electric Lady

4.  Her singing and dancing, whether live or studio, is phenomenal.

With her dancing, you can see how Michael Jackson and James Brown influenced her. She channels her own energy into their moves to create fun, exciting performances. When it comes to her voice, it has a great range that goes from soothing low notes to energetic and soulful high notes.

Songs and Performances with notable vocals:

“Cindi” from The Audition (a very rare album released in 2003)

“Come Alive (War of The Roses)” from The Archandroid

“Say You’ll Go” (Live audio from a National Public Radio session)- from The ArchAndroid

“Ba Bop Bye Ya” (Live from Emory University)- from The ArchAndroid

Music Videos and Performances with notable dancing:

“Tightrope” from The Archandroid

“Dance Apocalyptic” (Live from the David Letterman Show)- from The Electric Lady

“Electric Lady”  (Live on The Today Show) from The Electric Lady

5. Certain tracks are made to empower or represent specific groups of people.

“Cindi”(see above link)- encourages those who don’t fit in to accept themselves and be themselves

“Q.U.E.E.N.” (see above link)- According to an interview, the song is meant for women and those with different sexual orientations,  but is also an acronym for  the queer, the untouchables, the excommunicated, the emmigrants, and the negroid.

“Ghetto Woman” from The Electric Lady– for working class women

6. According to an acceptance speech she gave at Black Girls Rock! in 2012, she stated that she wears her signature black and white tuxedo to honor her parents and to stay connected to the community.

7.  Janelle Monáe is a brilliant, beautiful, and  talented woman who cannot and should not be categorized because she dances to her own beat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

October 12, 2014 at 10:59 PM

My Top Ten Afropunk Musicians With Some Favorite Songs

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Afropunk has become my number one favorite music genre. Consisting of punk rock, alternative, and indie music, this genre is a part of a movement for black people to show identities not shown in the mainstream. Now, I will show you my top ten Afropunk musicians and some favorite songs by each one.

10. Shinobi Ninja

Genre: Rock, Rap, and a dash of techno

Favorite Songs: Power Strangers, Gloom Doom

9.  Santigold

Genre: Rap, reggae, rock, electronica

Favorite Songs: Shove It, God From The Machine

8. Alice Smith

Genre: soul, jazz, blues, rock

Favorite Songs: Woodstock, Desert Song

7. Cecile Mclorin Salvant

Genre: blues, jazz

Favorite Songs: Poor Butterfly, I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate

6. Tamar-Kali

Genre:  Punk rock

Favorite Songs: Pearl, Fire With Fire

5. Divinity Roxx

Genre:Rock, Rap

Favorite Songs: Get Here, Get Yo Fix

4. Noisettes

Genre: hard rock, blues rock, pop

Favorite Songs: Burn, Atticus, Sister Rosetta

3. Angel Haze

Genre: Rap, spoken word, r&b, pop

Favorite Songs: Angels and Airwaves, Planes Fly, Who I Am, Summertime Sadness (Cover)

2. Janelle Monae

Genre: rock, funk, pop, classical, rap,  jazz, r&b

Favorite Songs: Cindi, Come Alive (War of The Roses), Locked Inside, Q.U.E.E.N.

1. Kimya Dawson

Genre: Folk

Favorite Songs: Happy Home (Keep on Writing), Wandering Daughter, Singing Machine. Burn

 

Authoress Note: I’d like to thank everyone for following my blog and reading my posts. It means a lot to me! Also, I will be taking classes and doing an internship this summer so I may not post for a few months.

 

Music Video Spotlight: “Many Moons” by Janelle Monae

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This music video originally came out in 2008 and was part of Monae’s EP Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase).  At six minutes long, it was promoted as a short film.

This is my favorite Janelle Monae music video so far. The fact that it is a short film makes the song more interesting because the story in this video is part of a big saga.

In the video, an android auction is taking place and android Cindy Mayweather is the musical entertainment. Yet, something doesn’t seem right in Metropolis. Why is Cindy singing, “Your freedom is in a bind”?

The best thing I love about the video is the dancing. At a certain point in the video, Cindy starts dancing.  if you watch closely, you can see her moonwalk forward and backwards. After that, she starts dancing like crazy. Not only was this a good way for Monae to be herself, but it was also a good way to pay homage to one of her influences.

Related Posts:

Album Review: The Electric Lady by Janelle Monae

Musician Spotlight: Janelle Monae

Written by Serena Zola

September 23, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Album Review: The Electric Lady by Janelle Monáe

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The Electric Lady, Janelle Monae

Source: Wikipedia

The Electric Lady is Monáe’s follow-up to 2010’s The Arch Android. It is the fourth and fifth chapters of the futuristic sci-fi saga Metropolis. Guest on the album include Prince, Erykah Badu, Miguel, Solange, and Esperanza Spalding.  While this album has a more urban sound than the previous installment, it still manages to showcase Monáe’s skill as a vocalist, lyricist, and producer.

The most notable thing about the album is its sound. While it is still eclectic somewhat, it is mostly soul, funk, jazz, and R& B. While it may polarize fans of her idiosyncratic sound, it will also gain Monáe fans. A notable track with a Motown girl-group throwback sound is “Dance Apocalyptic”.

In addition to Monáe’s sound being centered, her lyrics are more focused on one thing: love. Tracks such as “Q.U.E.E.N.” “Electric Lady”, and “Ghetto Woman” focus on empowering women with self-love, while songs such as “PrimeTime”, and “Dorothy Danridge Eyes” focus on love for someone else. Other songs such as “Victory” and “What an Experience” focus on loving life overall.

While the thoughts on different aspects of love are interesting, a disappointing factor is the lack of the original concept in the lyrics. Unlike on the previous album, there is barely any mention of Monáe’s alter-ego Cindy Merryweather and her lover Sir Greendown. If Monáe was going for a more plain approach, then fine. However, those who are following the saga of Metropolis may feel a bit confused.

Finally,  Monáe’s vocals are much richer on this album than her previous one. Maybe it is because she is doing genres best suited for her voice, but Monáe is reminiscent of  Diana Ross and Erykah Badu. Some of best songs vocally are “Givin Em What They Love” and “Look Into My Eyes”.

This album is great for contemporary urban music fans. If you couldn’t get into  Janelle Monáe before, then feel free to give her another chance.

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Written by Serena Zola

September 9, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Musician Spotlight: Janelle Monáe

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Janelle Monae

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Anybody ever become a fan of a musician right when they are about to release a new album? That is the case with me.

Out of curiosity, I read a recent interview about Janelle Monáe in TIME magazine. Soon, she will be releasing her second album The Electric Lady.

A sentence about her eclectic sound and a timeline that featured her influences caught my attention. However, the misleading subheading about her being an R & B innovator made me wary  because I don’t like much R & B. With somewhat low expectations, I decided to check out Monáe’s first album The ArchAndroid.

According to another interview I read, The Arch Android is a concept album set in a futuristic sci-fi world called Metropolis. There, an android named Cindi Mayweather is sent to free  the citizens from the Great Divide, a society that suppresses freedom and love. Furthermore, this album is the second and third part of the story, the first having been released on the EP Metropolis Suite 1: The Chase. Of course, the fourth and fifth part will be released on The Electric Lady. There are seven parts total.

To my very pleasant surprise, I ended up liking almost every track on ArchAndroid. TIME magazine was wrong to call Monáe an R&B innovator, because she is a music innovator period. For the first time, I heard some meta-genre songs. One of my favorite tracks, “Say You’ll Go” has a soul sound, yet also features the piano music of Claude Debussy.  Other sounds on the album include jazz, pop, funk, R&B, and rock. Another thing that impressed me about the album was its lyrics, which were beautiful, empowering, and sometimes funny.

Other things that impress me about Monáe are her vocals, live performances, and music videos. When it comes to her vocals, they are either soulful, silly, or high-powered depending on the song. One of her best songs vocally is “Come Alive (The War of The Roses)”. Her voice is pretty high-powered on this song, sounding exactly like an electric guitar’s high note.  Also, the live version of this song is even better than the album version because you get to see Monáe have fun with the song and interact with the audience.

Last but not least, the music videos. Although I’ve only seen the music videos done for ArchAndroid (there are some for the upcoming album and the EP mentioned earlier), I consider her to be just as creative as Michael Jackson. Of the two videos I’ve seen, “Cold War” is my favorite because it is so simple and yet so moving. The other music video “Tightrope” is a fun and somewhat serious video that illustrates part of the story of Metropolis.

To be sure, Janelle Monáe is definitely of my favorite musicians now. I’m looking forward to seeing more of her work.

Written by Serena Zola

September 6, 2013 at 4:12 PM

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