After going absolutely bonkers over the video for "Tightrope," probably the catchiest pop tune since "Hey Ya," I had to order Janelle Monae's critically acclaimed new album The ArchAndroid immediately. First, the bad news..."Tightrope" is by far the best song on the album. The good news is that the rest of it is still pretty darned great. Ms. Monae prides herself on being a genre-bender, and nearly every song on The ArchAndroid tackles a particular musical genre in a novel and exciting way, from rock to pop to R&B to tango to classical. This is a hefty, ambitious hunk o' music that may take a few listens to truly sink in.
The ArchAndroid is a concept album, which seems to be a growing trend in R&B today (check out Erykah Badu's latest, New Amerykah Part 2: Return of the Ankh, for another great example), with Ms. Monae adopting an alter ego named Cindy Mayweather who is actually a android from 2179 who finds herself in an mental hospital called The Palace of the Dogs in 2010. Most of the album pays homage to Fritz Lang's silent sci-fi classic Metropolis (another fairly ambitious conceit for a 24-year-old from Kansas City), right down to the art direction of the album itself.
First of all, Ms. Monae has a GREAT voice, a pure and powerful instrument that still preserves the enthusiasm and innocence of a little girl. Second, this album is one of the rare R&B/rap hybrids to showcase spectacular sound quality.While I bought this on CD, it will be available as a double LP by the end of the month. And yes, I'll probably get that as well!