Janelle Monáe Showcases Debut Album at New York Museum

Janelle Monae

Last Thursday night, industry insiders sipped cocktails in the lobby of New York City’s Rubin Museum of Art for the unveiling of Janelle Monáe’s latest masterpiece. A vacation from the expected gallery unveiling, the crowd skeptically eyed tall shadowy figures in mirrored masks that floated around, greeting guests. Portions of the Grammy-nominated singer’s eagerly-awaited debut The ArchAndroid, due May 18, played in the background of a short “Emotion Picture” that the eclectic chanteuse co-directed starring OutKast’s Big Boi, poet Saul Williams, psychedelic dance-punk troupe Of Montreal, and the Wondaland Arch Orchestra.

As guests situated themselves, the radiantly quirky Ms. Monáe appeared on stage in kimono-like garb, hair coiffed to perfection. In a state of doe-eyed effervescence, she urged her guests to enjoy, dance, and “act a fool.” Diddy’s short on-screen introduction and endorsement of Monáe’s work was superfluous—she had ‘em singlehandedly sold. Genre-bending tracks such as “Dance or Die” and “Wondaland” exemplified her cyber-soul persona with celestial beats and vocals.

A true testament to her fans’ loyalty, as well as the quality of the music, everyone definitely loosened up and transformed into concertgoers. Shoulder shimmies turned into all-out “shake it like a Polaroid picture” mode within 10 minutes. And if this album moved a crowd of critics out of their seats, we think it just might move the rest of us to click the “Buy” button next to her pretty little pout on iTunes.

Here are some of our favorites:

1. “Cold War”

It’s easy to detect OutKast’s influence on Monáe’s composition on this up-tempo track. The snare-induced beat sets a solid background for her strong vocals, which she actually allows to upstage everything else. The lyrics run with the intensity of the beat as she sings, “This is a cold war/ You better know what you’re fighting for,” guitar solos playing into her warning.

2. “Tightrope” featuring Big Boi

“I’ll take your pain away,” Monáe promises as she opens the Big Boi-assisted first single. And she does. The crowd lost it during this one, fresh yet familiar, and boasting a retro beat that brings back all the pleasurable convulsing from OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” music video. Big Boi’s verse complements her delightfully scattered disposition as well.

3. “Locked Inside”

Soulful and somewhat revealing, this song slows it down a little bit in the name of love. “Oh how I need you love, you are so crazy/ I need you baby,” she croons to the beat of a laid-back summer jam. With somewhat of a throwback feel, Monáe seems to be channeling Michael Jackson’s versatility and Estelle’s sensual vocals.

4. “Mushrooms & Roses”

This hippie-fied, jazz guitar-ridden track excavates Monáe’s electro-sensibility; the snare-heavy number pushes the blurred vocals to the back burner. It’s reflective, swaying music, a little psychedelic but not enough to drive it away from the soul of the rest of the album. Monáe shies away from flaunting her vocal chops on this one, letting herself echo in the background.

There will be 18 tracks on The ArchAndroid. The tracklisting below is not final and is in no particular order.

“Suite II Overture”
“Dance or Die”
“Faster”
“Locked Inside”
“Sir Greendown”
“Cold War”
“Tightrope”
“Mushrooms & Roses”
“Suite III Overture”
“Neon Valley Street”
“Wondaland”
“57821”

–Rajul Punjabi

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20 Comments

  1. REM

    Cant Wait to hear it!

    [Reply]

  2. Jewels

    I can’t wait to hear the entire album- I know it’s going to blow my mind. Janelle and the Wondaland crew have some crazzzzy talent! They are taking 2010 to a new level. Love it.

    [Reply]

  3. SupaCi

    OMG. YASSSSSSSSSSS! I absolutely LOVE Janelle! Her music, her image, her imagination, her voice is so revolutionary!! She is everything an artist should be!

    [Reply]

  4. AAA

    She’s a good artist but she wont get anywhere being on bad boy

    [Reply]

  5. Jasmine

    To @AAA, stop hating! Janelle Monae ROCKS and will go ANYWHERE she wants. Puff’s obviously full supporter, and even if he wasn’t I dont think Janelle and the Wondaland Arts team would let that stop the revolution.

    Cheers to great music in 2010 – let’s go Janelle!

    [Reply]

  6. PeteMe20

    Janelle’s dope as hell. Period. Can’t wait to hear the full album.

    [Reply]

  7. PeteMe20

    Janelle’s dope as hell. Period. Can’t wait to hear the full album!

    [Reply]

  8. Talisha

    The world is a better place when music like Janelle’s is made. Thank goodness! MAY 18th can’t come fast enough.

    [Reply]

  9. Obvious Genius

    Rujul, I agree. I got to see her perform Mushrooms & Roses along with Tightrope at Afropunk last year and that girl blew my mind. Janelle Monae is DOPE!!!

    [Reply]

  10. Kyle

    I NEED THIS ALBUM ASAP. Janelle Monae is the FUTURE.

    [Reply]

  11. Jeffery J-Boe

    I Love Her, She’s Just An Amazing Artist To Watch Out For… It’s About Time She Gets The Credit She Deserves, No One Is On Her Level… She Does Everything To A Different Point Of View That Nobody Hasn’t Seen Before, I Cannot Wait To Get Her Album, and Also Cool Album Title “The ArchAndroid”… Janelle Monae For 2010.

    [Reply]

  12. jccj

    as puff mentions repeatedly, janelle is a self-contained artist. one will note that the only place he appears on this record is as an executive producer; not a producer of tracks or a feature. this time he got it right. he signed janelle, exposed her to the masses and got out of the way. i w.a.s. there at the rubin & it was bonkers. to see industry folks dance around in such a usually uptight atmosphere is a testament to the power of her music. this album is going to be the best of 2010. if you haven’t heard it, press pause and wait. come may 18th, you’ll eat your words. she’s made a believer out of me.

    [Reply]

  13. noNa

    Yes, Puff got it right this time. And for the record, Janelle co-founded her OWN record label, The Wondaland Arts Society, BEFORE Puffy was ever involved. She has full creative control. Listen to the dang album and stop hatin’. The listening experience at the Rubin was amazing. Eagerly anticipating May 18th.

    [Reply]

  14. I W.A.S THERE. « Word Up, Haay.

    [...] of a short “Emotion Picture” that the eclectic chanteuse co-directed starring OutKast’s Big Boi, poet Saul Williams, psychedelic dance-punk troupe Of Montreal, and the Wondaland Arch [...]

  15. Lil'M

    I am a huge JM fan. Love, love, LOVE ‘The Chase (Suite I of IV)’ – so fresh, THRILLING, and full of promise. Despite all her alternative leanings, she still has a good deal of mainstream appeal – which had me worried that her debut on Bad Boy would be too similar to ‘The Chase’ – and so far, it has been. I am mystified that there has not been one mention of how safe/formulaic her first two singles are! Beat-wise, ‘Cold War’ is practically ‘Many Moons, Pt.2′, but less interesting! And ‘Tightrope’ is fresh – if you haven’t heard ‘The Chase’! (In my opinion, she needs to ditch the ‘Hey-Ya!’ mold and move on to bigger and better things.)
    With everyone ranting and raving about these singles, as well as the rest of the songs played at the listening party – I am keeping my expectations at bay. Don’t get me wrong – I want so badly to throw my arms up and proclaim to the Sun that this album is the water the current desert of hip-hop/R&B so desperately needs – and I hope, come May 18th, I can – but judging by the first two songs, it seems as though I’m going to have to settle for slightly less: a watered-down, über-slick version of ‘The Chase.’
    I am, however, comforted by the facts that she has 1)aligned with one of my favorite bands, of Montreal (I’ve been a fan for at least 8 years and they consistently evolve and ‘wow’ me with each release), and 2)recorded with an orchestra. Those two things show risk-taking and promise.
    Is there anyone else who feels this way – about the first two singles, at least? I’m not saying she should sacrifice her ‘Janelle Monae’ sound/vibe, but going by all her talk of exploring and breaking new ground, I expect to be surprised! Doesn’t anybody else??

    [Reply]

  16. Kandace

    I mean, I feel you Lil M but you gotta let artists evolve. I too am a HUGE fan of Suite I, The Chase and had to remember that this is an entire STORY about the world of Metropolis, Cindy Mayweather and Anthony Greendown. Personally, I love the two singles. They are funky as hell and they have a message that’s right in line with the JM I’m used to. But even if she doesn’t do some things I’m used to, it’s cool. People grow and change, and I’m betting whatever changing JM is doing it’s for the best.

    Gotta love her.

    [Reply]

  17. Janelle Monáe :: News :: The Chase Suite :: In Stores Now!

    [...] Museum of Art to take in her debut album, “The ArchAndroid”, which is due out May 18th. RapUp was there taking notes on what they heard. Check out what they had to say about Janelle’s new [...]

  18. msangie225

    I support any and everything Janelle Monae puts out because she is a musical genius! Her music is nothing short of a masterpeice and she paints a vivid picture through all of her songs! Did I mention they make you wanna dance your butt off?! I am a JM stan and nothing I’m saying is overexaggerated! She is dope! Can’t wait for the album “ArchAndriod” to drop May 18th!

    [Reply]

  19. tell'em

    I need this now. Please everyone support her album and BUY it when it becomes available. And she better get some Grammy noms come November or there will be problems.

    [Reply]

  20. True Blue

    Step aside Lady Gaga, THIS is the real deal. Janelle is like the modern, female Michael Jackson. I wonder if the world is ready for this revolution. This isn’t manufactured bullsh*t pretending to be edgy (like Lady You-Know-Who), this actually original and fresh, with a strong message. People can’t ignore this visionary.

    [Reply]

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