The archandroid

Genius robo-funk opus from worthy-of-the-hype OutKast protegé

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.


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Another upstart you'll want to be keeping your eyes and ears on this year is 24-year-old Atlanta singer and snappy dresser Janelle Monae, who recalls everyone from Prince and Little Richard right up to OutKast's Andre 3000 and Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes on superb debut album The ArchAndroid - a record which is already, quite rightly, being hailed as one of the albums of the decade. Here you can watch Monae make her television debut on the Late Show With David Letterman last month, performing rolling funk anthem 'Tightrope', which she absolutely kills with equally knock-out vocals and dance moves. Believe the hype.

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