Janelle Monae: An 'ArchAndroid' Ascends

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Janelle Monae; credit: Andrew Zaeh i

In "Tightrope," Janelle Monae assesses her career alongside OutKast's Big Boi. Andrew Zaeh hide caption

itoggle caption Andrew Zaeh
Janelle Monae; credit: Andrew Zaeh

In "Tightrope," Janelle Monae assesses her career alongside OutKast's Big Boi.

Andrew Zaeh

Friday's Pick

  • Song: "Tightrope"
  • Artist: Janelle Monae with Big Boi
  • CD: The ArchAndroid
  • Genre: Soul

Janelle Monae is an alien from outer space, or so she insists in the first song from her 2008 debut album, Metropolis: The Chase Suite. Inspired by Fritz Lang's 1927 film Metropolis, Monae works issues of class, race and slavery into the seven-song collection, through the lens of a lovesick robot. It sounds like Broadway in space, both literally and figuratively. Now Monae is releasing a new album, titled The ArchAndroid, out May 18. Its first single, "Tightrope," features OutKast's Big Boi, who publicly endorsed her after meeting her at a local music event in Atlanta.

The song's up-tempo boogie is engaging from the outset, with Monae flexing her chords over a syncopated drum, funky bass line, dangling guitar and steady tambourine. It's a song about Monae's own budding stardom, and the balance she must maintain as she ascends the industry ladder. With a breakdown featuring what Monae calls "classy brass," DJ scratches and a ukulele, the arrangement feels both eclectic and harmonious. She sings her words — "When you get elevated / they love it or they hate it / You dance up on them haters / Keep getting funky on the scene" — with a swagger that suggests she won't shed her eccentricity in her rise to fame. That's a relief.

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