Janelle Monáe, Girl from Another Planet.
April 27, 2010 1:18 PM   Subscribe

"Open your minds, earthlings, and prepare to be launched headfirst into an alternate universe. A place where robots fall in love with humans. Where your tour guide into this alternate realm is a demure lil thang with a bold set of pipes. 'I'm an alien from outer space,' declares Janelle Monáe on the first song of her debut album, Metropolis: The Chase Suite (Special Edition). Yes, Toto, we are no longer in Kansas anymore. Or even planet Earth."

In just a few weeks, the world gets "The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III of IV)," her full-length debut, which she refers to as an "emotional picture of the mind." Here are some videos to hold you over until then.
posted by jbickers (61 comments total) 80 users marked this as a favorite

And thanks again to hermitosis for turning me onto this in the first place. And thanks to the fine boys in Outkast for discovering her.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:27 PM on April 27, 2010

I think I have listened to Tightrope approximately 10 billion times in the past month.
posted by NoraReed at 1:27 PM on April 27, 2010

Very cool.
posted by everichon at 1:30 PM on April 27, 2010

She rules. Saw her with Of Montreal last year. Need to see her again.
posted by defenestration at 1:32 PM on April 27, 2010

A friend showed me the Tightrope video a couple of weeks ago, and I am pretty much over the moon with excitement about this new album (also The Chase Suite, which I've been listening to nonstop....). Apparently there is a graphic novel associated with it? Which is awesome. MORE SCI-FI IN MY MUSIC PLEASE

She has been posting elaborate background stories on her twitter, and they make me dorkily excited.
posted by bewilderbeast at 1:35 PM on April 27, 2010

Only chainsaws and electro daggers, indeed.
posted by yeloson at 1:36 PM on April 27, 2010

The non-vocal chorus in Many Moons [start at :59] sounds a whole lot like the counting chorus of the Pinball Number Song, especially with the little lilt at the end.

I like her, though. Always good to see new talent.
posted by dammitjim at 1:37 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

posted by threetoed at 1:38 PM on April 27, 2010

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10.. 11 12! DOO DOO DOO! TWELVE! or is that just me?

Anyway, I'm gonna go rent a tux for work tomorrow. This video: transformed my life.
posted by boo_radley at 1:39 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sounds like Outkast.
posted by empath at 1:42 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Pointer Sisters wrote that counting song! I think that pedigree makes it a totally appropriate thing to borrow.

On the album, "Many Moons" is right after "Violet Stars Happy Hunting", where "doo doo" is the sound that sirens make. I think that makes the counting song sort of menacing.
posted by bewilderbeast at 1:43 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]



a Monae/ Deltron 3030 concept collaboration

did i just blow your mind
posted by boo_radley at 2:01 PM on April 27, 2010 [5 favorites]

oh... oh my, yes.

man, this is outstanding. thanks for this. my one worry:

I have this thing, and it's totally a me thing, where I obsess over whatever thing has newly been introduced to me, music wise. And then, if it's something that is currently popular or will be I hit this weird spot where for some reason, though I still love it, I feel weird listening to it once it kinda gets played out. It happened with Outkast, and Amy Winehouse and all that stuff. Like I start imagining people seeing me enjoying it and rolling their eyes. weird, right? And I kinda hope it doesn't happen with this because hot fuck this is some real great shit, right here. I really hope it doesn't happen with this.
posted by shmegegge at 2:02 PM on April 27, 2010

i imagine you listening to this

i raise my hand, make a fist in agreement

it is ok to like a thing
posted by boo_radley at 2:08 PM on April 27, 2010 [12 favorites]


But, has she been watching too much Red Dwarf.
posted by Chuckles at 2:11 PM on April 27, 2010


a Monae/ Deltron 3030 concept collaboration

That would be great, but I would be depressed if they announced such a thing only because after a year, Kid Koala would say "Yep, it's half done.", then 3 years later Dan the Automator would say in an interview "We're still working on it", and then 100 years later, long after the consciousnesses of the artists involved have been downloaded into the biological supercomputer that will eventually take over the planet Earth, the process once known as "Del tha Funkee Homosapien" and now known as "Musical Artist Application 102312" will announce in an interview broadcast over subspace that he now plans on finally writing the lyrics but it will still be another 50 years before they get around to dropping the album, because the processes once known as "Kid Koala" and "Dan the Automator" now need to retune the beats because they sound like they were made in the early 2000s, lol. Damn it.
posted by threetoed at 2:23 PM on April 27, 2010 [7 favorites]

I have no idea if it's the force of Outkast' support or the force of her own talent, but I think it's awesome and amazing that she's getting the chance to pull this kind of thing off.
posted by cmoj at 2:26 PM on April 27, 2010

I feel sooo out of shape watching her.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 2:29 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

She's been around for a while, and I hate to be the hater, but I really wish she was more adventurous in her production and arrangement. Maybe it's just that that I still want more Funkadelic freakout from my R&B, but I thought her EP was pretty disappointing. The remixes that I've heard have been a lot, lot better (Tracademics especially).
posted by klangklangston at 2:30 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Love Janelle Monae. A great post I will have to check out once I get my sound back.
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:34 PM on April 27, 2010

Oh, and nthing the thanksbucket for hermitosis. He turned me on to Lady Gaga, which turned me on to pop music, which turned me on to Janelle Monae. I was beginning to think I was bored of music before those suggestions.
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:36 PM on April 27, 2010

Well. That first video has my interest piqued. Now to listen to it without the neat 5th Element-feeling visuals tickling my happy place and see if I like the music by itself...
posted by egypturnash at 2:37 PM on April 27, 2010

I only heard of her yesterday and spent a couple of hours watching that video and reading up on her stuff.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:47 PM on April 27, 2010

Cold War is amazing as well!
posted by mdonley at 2:58 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow. I've only had time to watch the first video, but so far I'm loving her. It's like Grace Jones had a baby with Eraserhead, but then she was raised by one of the families in the film Delicatessen and they all lived next door to MC Hammer.
posted by Forktine at 3:23 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sweet! I clicked through and fell in love. Thanks!
posted by _paegan_ at 3:27 PM on April 27, 2010

One of the many movies I'm not producing centers on the idea that Sun Ra, Klaus Nomi, David Bowie, Fred Schneider, and George Clinton really have been channeling encounters with space aliens all this time. I'll have to make room for Monae now.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:05 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

I want her, Muse, and Gnarls Barkley to make love babies.
posted by ZaneJ. at 4:05 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Son of a bitch! Here I was preparing my first ever post for Metafilter when you beat me to it, jbickers!. I just discovered her last week via and all the Lady Gaga-ing around here lately got me thinking about how Janelle Monae just blows Lady Gaga away on every level--singing, songwriting, conceptually, etc.

I still think Lady Gaga is a time traveler, though.
posted by KingEdRa at 4:08 PM on April 27, 2010

She's been around for a while, and I hate to be the hater, but I really wish she was more adventurous in her production and arrangement

And I wish "indie" labels signed more Black artists. That way artists could be more adventurous without having to rely so much on the support and patronage of commercially established artists .

We wouldn't have got Outkast without TLC. No Neptunes or Missy Elliott without Teddy Riley.

One can only hope that she gets to have the opportunity that Outkast had to be adventurous. Their first album as great as it was, didn't stray that far from the hip-hop of that era, but they got just enough commercial success to really let their freak flag fly, and in the process opened the door for a lot of other acts to blur the lines even further. So i'm super excited for these new acts who now have this even bigger sandbox to play in.
posted by billyfleetwood at 4:12 PM on April 27, 2010 [7 favorites]

Thanks for the thanks, it means a lot since I’m used to being SILENCED ALL MY LIFE.
posted by hermitosis at 4:52 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Woah, "The Fifth Element" just got real or something.
posted by GuyZero at 4:56 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, Many Moons does have the same jingle from the Sesame Street pinball bit. I don't count it against her in any way. It's such a great collection of notes that it deserves a full song.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:13 PM on April 27, 2010

Holy shit! THIS is the girl who was playing in the club scene in that episode of Stargate: Universe! I had NO idea who she was, but she was AWESOME. Downloading now.
posted by cthuljew at 5:18 PM on April 27, 2010

Definitely seeing some direct Andre 3000 influences there
posted by aesacus at 5:27 PM on April 27, 2010

Wait; the '80s are back? How long have I been asleep?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:19 PM on April 27, 2010

Cold War is amazing as well!

Damn! It sure is.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 6:49 PM on April 27, 2010

Also, this is the first time that R&B has ever made sense to me, so, uh, go Janelle Monae.
posted by cthuljew at 7:00 PM on April 27, 2010

Damn. That lady can move.
posted by ErWenn at 7:55 PM on April 27, 2010

Saw her a couple of weeks ago. Great show with a diverse and energized crowd. I predict that she is soon going to be much more famous than she is right now.

Cannot goddamn wait for that album.
posted by pts at 9:00 PM on April 27, 2010

Oh and while we're dreaming up collaborators, I nominate Shiina Motherfucking Ringo.
posted by pts at 9:14 PM on April 27, 2010 [5 favorites]

The sheer energy is awesome to behold. Ms. Monáe can sing. It doesn't hurt at all that she also moves -- to steal a phrase from William Gibson -- like a "snake on ice". I like this.
posted by Kikkoman at 9:16 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Worth hearing is "The Kids" -- a cut featuring Janelle Monáe on B.o.B's new album, released just yesterday.

Also, were you aware that Outkast's Big Boi produced a ballet in 2008 entitled "Big" that featured Ms Monáe performing "Sincerely, Jane"? He did.

Oh, and here is the same track performed live with added Roots goodness.
posted by grabbingsand at 4:48 AM on April 28, 2010

Omigod, pts, thank you for that! That's the next rabbit hole I'm gonna disappear down.
posted by jbickers at 4:49 AM on April 28, 2010

Wow. So, Lady Gaga was John the baptist, basically?
posted by condour75 at 8:01 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Okay, I just grabbed 'Metropolis: Chase Suite' and am listening to it and this woman is totally fucking awesome. Her music makes me wanna move and the lyrics I've been able to pick out are pretty intriguing. And she sings about runaway robots.

Plus, ohmyfuck, the way she moves when she dances. It's like she's just sliding across the floor on hidden wheels. Eerie and uncanny and beautiful.

Totally buying that album next week. Thanks for the pointer!
posted by egypturnash at 8:57 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

it's so cool that now I've told all my friends about her I can be like "told you so" when she makes it big and suddenly I'm the hip cat with the inside dope on the new big things in music. Then I get to be all "yawn, I liked her first EP better" when the full length goes platinum and act bored when other people tell me they just heard of her and be like "oh HER?! Yeah, she's a'ight. That's kinda 6 months ago, though."
posted by shmegegge at 9:00 AM on April 28, 2010

At first I was like, "Wow she really pulls a lot from M. Jackson". Then I watched that Palace Of The Dogs video and was like "Oh. She IS M. Jackson"

Still really compelling stuff. And I say this as a pop-hater.
posted by lumpenprole at 9:26 AM on April 28, 2010

She is so fucking amazing. I can't go on a car trip without cranking Metropolis. I am so excited for this new album. Also: damn, that woman can move!

Sociological Images
recently profiled the video to Tightrope, remarking that it is fabulous example of non-sexualized and non-gendered dance. Neat.
posted by arcticwoman at 1:59 PM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

In highschool, I was an enormous whirlwind of savage energy... I locked the QB upside down in his own locker, and that was my junior year. If I could go back in time, I'd go back to Atlanta in the early 60's, and be the screaming Viking-Scotts avenger that haunted the halls of that nameless highschool in all of OutKast's videos, protecting it so sultry songstresses who do Michael Jackson better than MJ ever did can do their thing in peace, and in return, offer me one hard, loud, bottom-of-the-gut, with all my soul, ethereal, monstrous "YEAH!" on one of her singles.

I also want a pony.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:41 PM on April 28, 2010

I love her. Soooo much. It... the... flames? flames! on the sides of my face... breathing... heavy.... HEAVING breaths...
posted by greekphilosophy at 8:33 PM on April 29, 2010 [4 favorites]

If Lady Gaga was John the Baptist, then what was Madonna?

Also, I nominate Ke$ha as Barabus.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:15 AM on April 30, 2010

ha, greekphilosophy! I've never encountered that reference in the wild. People just give me blank stares when I do it.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:16 PM on April 30, 2010

Bring able to quote that movie backward and forward is sort of a prerequisite for friendship with me.

Come to think of it, there's a list of quotable favorite movies a lack of familiarity with which might render a conversation with me impossible.
posted by greekphilosophy at 11:59 PM on April 30, 2010

Wait; the '80s are back? How long have I been asleep?
posted by ZenMasterThis


posted by micayetoca at 11:07 AM on May 1, 2010

Wow, I got my copy of Archandroid today! It is delightful!
posted by boo_radley at 6:04 PM on May 10, 2010

posted by greekphilosophy at 12:07 PM on May 11, 2010

Been listening to Archandroid. It's... reasonably good. Lacks the hallucinatory fervour of Metropolis, imho (especially in the first suite/half, which is much more standard R&B stuff, and will be familiar to anyone who's gotten their hands on her first album, Audition. It's not bad, I'm just indifferent. The first five tracks are pretty forgettable. Cold War and couple of others in the first suite are more memorable).

This said, the second half picks up, and there are some tracks in there that I personally found more evocative of Metropolis (the sound I really liked).

Overall, I'm mixed; definitely require more listening, but I definitely don't feel it's as strong as Metropolis - not just because it's album length, either. The production, some of the songs, I don't feel they're up to snuff, it's certainly not as consistent. Maybe I'll change my mind on some more listens though.
posted by smoke at 11:29 PM on May 16, 2010

Man, how did I not here about this lady till today. I must live in some crazy bubble. This lady fucking awesome. The video for Tightrope is hype.
posted by chunking express at 9:36 AM on May 22, 2010

So at the end of Say you'll go did she reference a few phrases of debussey?
posted by boo_radley at 2:30 PM on May 25, 2010

I have to say, I'm a little disappointed and I really hate to say so publicly. But I'm disappointed because I expect better of someone so thoughtful and talented as Ms. Monae and her team.

The song "Come Alive" (which musically I absolutely love) as well as a handful of other songs, use lyrics including the term "schizo." As someone with a close relative with a psychiatric illness, and as someone who has worked to provide direct legal aid to people living with psychiatric illnesses (including schizophrenia), I'm seriously disappointed. In the most glib and delighted fashion, it perpetuates a stereotype about people with mental illness. And I expected better from someone who two years ago in "Metropolis" addressed issues like universal healthcare and teenage sexual promiscuity.

I don't usually write letters to editors or record labels or publishers, and I especially avoid writing ones that are essentially screeds on political correctness, but I feel like this is unfortunate. I like Janelle Monae so much that I want her to *get it.*

It does feel like Clair de Lune, doesn't it? In fact, it's almost like the piano is playing AROUND Clair de Lune, allowing your brain to fill in the missing chords but never going there directly.
posted by greekphilosophy at 10:58 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

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