Friday, December 17, 2010

Top 10 of 2010: Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III)


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Lame that I missed seeing this live due to food poisoning
Originally intended to run as 3 separate EP’s The ArchAndriod collects parts 2 and 3 of Janelle Monae's “Metropolis Suite” - inspired by the 1927 German expressionist classic of the same name. What is it that separates Monae’s masterpiece from the other albums on this list? In a word: Ambition.

Not many artists have the guile to release a concept album as their debut. This is the kind of album that a legacy artist would make to prove that they’re still relevant. It is incredibly diverse, challenging and sprawling. Could this album be a few tracks shorter? Certainly. It clocks in at almost 70 minutes and while it remains an engaging listen throughout it might have a bit more punch without that final orchestral track. That said, the record manages to take the best parts of R & B and Hip Hop and places them in a dystopian setting which in and of itself, is simply astounding.  The fact that the achingly gorgeous “Oh, Maker” can fit alongside the should-be-club-hit “Tightrope” is not only a testament to Janelle Monae’s talent – but her artistic vision. It can be a challenging listen, but the high points make it an incredibly joyful and rewarding experience.   

Its Janelle’s supreme vocal talent and emotional directness that separate Monae’s work from the likes of other “alternative hip-hop” groups like Gorillaz and Outkast. Additionally, the guest appearances from Big Boi and Of Montreal merely enhance The Arch Android, the album doesn’t depend on its guest appearances to be successful - like Plastic Beach, for example. It certainly has greater appeal to those that don’t listen to hip hop regularly than say, the new Ghostface Killah album (which is a 5 star affair that would have made my list if it had been released a few weeks earlier), but it doesn’t lose its urban voice like other “alternative radio approved” hip hop artists. 

So be sure to check this out. Pick up the Metropolis EP as well and listen to all three suites as originally intended. I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.

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