The God-daughter-bot of Soul

Ladies and gentlemen, the hardest-working dancing android in show business, Janelle Monáe.

Every once in a while I see something that just makes me glad I live in the future. If it weren’t 2010, how else could you see a mash-up of Metropolis, 70s glam rock, 70s prog rock, 40s musicals, disco, millennial hip hop, and James Brown?

Well, if you were more hip than I am, you could’ve seen all that in 2008, apparently, with Metropolis: The Chase Suite from Janelle Monáe. It was a concept album EP about Monáe’s alternate identity Cindi Mayweather, a rogue android who — actually, the liner notes explain it better than I could:

The year is 2719. Five World Wars have decimated the earth. To escape from the ecological destruction, mankind has banded together to create one last great city named Metropolis. Under the rule of the evil Wolfmasters, the city becomes a decadent wonderland known for its partying robo-zillionaires, riotous ethnic, race and class conflicts and petty holocausts….

Into this turbulent world is born Android No. 57821, an Alpha Platinum 9000 named Cindi Mayweather. Unlike other androids, Cindi’s programming includes a rock-star proficiency package and a working soul….

And the videos “explain” the brilliant nonsense better than that. In particular: the “short film” video for “Many Moons” from the Metropolis EP., which handles all the introductions:

She’s doing a big push for “suites II and III” of the story, her new album The ArchAndroid, and that includes a great performance of “Tightrope” on Letterman.

And ArchAndroid is pretty much awesome; it’s tough to think of a musical style she doesn’t touch on in there — funk to big band to Hendrix-style psychedelic rock to straight-up disco. And I liked one of the comments in the Amazon reviews, that described it as somehow sounding even more cinematic and theatrical than a genuine soundtrack.

Big Boi of Outkast is a collaborator and executive producer on both records, and in fact you can’t hear the song “Violent Stars Happy Hunting!” (yeah, that’s the real title) from Metropolis without being reminded of “Hey Ya!” But more than that, I can’t watch or hear any of this stuff without being reminded of how “Hey Ya!” seemed to come out of nowhere — again, for the less hip among us — and blow me away.

But this is like if you took that and added robots!

2 thoughts on “The God-daughter-bot of Soul”

  1. Thank you so much for this tip-off. I wasn’t familiar with her, and I think by about 30 seconds into the Tightrope video, I was in love with her. That whole video is absolute perfection — the song, the dancing, the art direction, the costumes, all of it. I just bought the album based on the strength of this one song (when was the last time I did that?).

  2. Cool, I’ll be interested to hear how you like the whole record. It’s completely blown me away — it’s all over the place, musically, but it all holds together. And somebody who can dance like that shouldn’t be able to make an album that good.

    I went from never-heard-of-her to number-one-fan over the course of like two hours. She’s amazing. Like if you crammed Lena Horne, Cab Calloway, James Brown, Grace Jones, young Michael Jackson, 80s Michael Jackson, Billie Holiday, and Andre 3000 into the same body. And she’s only 24 years old!

    She’s playing at the Paramount in Oakland early June, and I’m still considering going, even though the tickets are expensive and she’s just opening for Erykah Badu. From what I’ve seen on video, her live shows are incredible. Definitely check out that Letterman performance if you haven’t already — I knew I was hooked when they brought out the cape.

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