New Music 08/2018 – Janelle Monáe

It’s always great to discover a new musical love, especially one that comes with a quality back catalogue.

I’ve mentioned in my Top 50 Favourite Albums post that my musical tastes haven’t changed all that much in the last ten years, but that’s not entirely true. Yes I’m still mostly a rock/pop/alternative girl, but I’ve slowly developed more appreciation for R&B, a genre I didn’t grow up with and was mostly indifferent about, give or take a few tracks here and there. I’ve listened to Janelle Monáe’s highly acclaimed debut album, The ArchAndroid, back when it was first released in 2010, and decided that it just wasn’t for me. Fast forward eight years and for whatever reason it all clicked and now I dig Monáe’s eccentric, playful, sexy style. Her funky Prince-like single Make Me Feel got some play on the commercial radio and piqued my interest enough to go exploring on YouTube, and then I quickly ended up buying all three of her albums.

The Archandroid is a dazzlingly ambitious 18-track musical cornucopia; mostly based in funk and R&B but veering into everything from cinematic classical music, disco, jazz, ye olde English folk, rap and psychedelia. Some songs blend seamlessly into each other, and the whole album flows brilliantly despite the crazy genre hopping. The Electric Lady continues on the same idiosyncratic, eclectic path (though I’m not a big fan of the spoken “radio break” interludes), and this year’s Dirty Computer is the most hook-heavy and poptastic offering so far, you could call it more commercial I suppose. It’s also an often scathing commentary on the ills of the modern US society, with not-so-veiled jabs at Donald Trump (if you try to grab my pussycat, this pussy grab you back).

Janelle Monáe is still probably too weird for the mainstream, at least down here, while at the same time she doesn’t really fit an alternative “youth” station like Triple J either. Which is a shame because her poppier singles – Tightrope, Electric Lady, Pynk, I Like That – are as catchy as anything else on the radio. Whether she ever makes it or not, she’s fabulously talented and I can add her to my list of artists-to-follow.

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