Review: ‘The ArchAndroid’ by Janelle Monáe

Atlanta transplant Janelle Monáe took the musical world by storm a few years ago with the release of her EP Metropolis: The Chase Suite, the first in a promised four-part series about the journeys of a futuristic android’s messianic mission.

In 2010, Monáe comes two steps closer to finishing her initial epic with the release of The ArchAndroid, the second and third parts of the Metropolis series.

Taking advantage of a slightly larger production budget that comes along with her signing to Diddy’s Bad Boy Records, Monáe and her cohorts expand upon the variety of sounds and styles shown in Metropolis, all while sticking to the story behind the music of Cindi Mayweather, an android built in the future who seeks to break down the barriers of her society.

While the album is categorized for selling points as an R&B album, the album is anything but a straightforward R&B album. The closest comparison to another album that The ArchAndroid comes is to Big Boi’s The Love Below. The ArchAndroid, though, is more consistent than Big Boi’s masterpiece, even as it jumps from style to style on a track-by-track basis.

Following the gorgeous but ultimately unnecessary opening “Suite II Overture,” Monáe unleashes an opening trifecta of force with “Dance or Die,” “Faster,” and “Locked Inside.” “Dance or Die” starts things off with an infectious beat that mixes spoken vocals by Monáe with a beat that’s tempo only increases as the song continues. It leads into “Faster,” which, true to its name, builds upon the beat set by “Dance or Die.” The music drops out as Monáe flows into “Locked Inside” with a gorgeous vocal performance.

Other parts of the album manage to match or surpass the brilliance of the opening tracks, including lead single “Tightrope.” Unfortunately, songs like “Sir Greendown” and “Neon Gumbo” are unnecessary to the concept of the album. That being said, the songs are still enjoyable.

The back third of the album makes up the third suite of the Metropolis project, and it’s where things get a little more interesting. “Make the Bus” features indie band Of Montreal, giving the album an interesting rock influence of sorts for a track. Elsewhere, instrumental pieces like “Neon Valley Street” and the hypnotic closing numbers “Say You’ll Go” and “BaBobBye Ya” only add to the musical diversity.

Ultimately, The ArchAndroid serves as a fascinating addition to Monáe’s Metropolis series, and even with a few unnecessary songs, proves that this Atlanta native is a force to be reckoned with in the future.

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