Genius robo-funk opus from worthy-of-the-hype OutKast protegé
Rating: 8 / 10
Ed Power, 29 Jul 2010
There's so much going on in Janelle Monae's debut it's difficult to know where to begin. A post-GaGa mash-up of James Brown, Prince, George Clinton and Grace Jones, The ArchAndroid is a beautiful, bonkers opus of such dizzying ambition the listener will be forgiven the occasional vertiginous moment. A tribute to Fritz Lang's sci-fi silent classic Metropolis, it starts with a swell of horns creepily reminiscent of Philip Glass' mad pharaoh opera Akhnaten (you can be sure Monae, a dedicated Egyptologist is aware of the reference), segueing into the Off The Wall boogie of 'Locked Inside', the robo-metal blast of 'Come Alive (War of the Roses)' and the beyond-catchy afro-funk futurism of 'Cold War'. Along the way there are cameos from Outkast's Big Boi (a mentor of sorts) Saul Williams and Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes. With her James Brown wedge and seventies fem-bot style, Kansas-born, Atlanta-based Monae risks coming off as contrived in places. But in an age where a blatant media baiter like Lady GaGa can achieve global icon-hood, maybe that's the price you have to pay to make people sit up and notice. Either way, beneath its synthetic skin, The ArchAndroid is as pulsatingly real as it gets.