Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Caren Explains Janelle Monae

Psst! Hey you! ... Yes, you! Come closer. I want to tell you a secret, but you don't have to keep it. In fact, tell everyone you know. See there's this gal you should know about: Janelle Monae--have you heard of her? ... well, she's about to blow up, so pay attention now and you can tell your kids you knew her back when...

This ArchAndroid is equal parts Andre 3000, Prince and Anita Baker. She is funky, focused and enchanting in an Audrey Hepburn sort of way. When I met Janelle in 2008 I remember how sincere she was when she said, "It's very nice to meet you." If she had instead said "How are you?" I'm sure she would have been genuinely interested in the reply, rather than treating it as a passing line as so many of us do.

Her debut full-length album -- with the second and third suites of her Metropolis project -- was released today by Bad Boy and it will be a hit of 2010. She already has some solid fans, like Big Boi, Of Montreal and Saul Williams, who are featured collaborators on the album.

In an era when mainstream artists rely on auto-tune and pump out singles, here's an album that should be consumed in its entirety. It moves from orchestral to brass-and-beat laden tracks, with a standout three-track sequence of "Locked Inside," "Sir Greenwood" and "Cold War" midway through the album.

So now you know. Go tell your friends... and it might be time for you to learn how to do the "Tightrope"...