Unlike many of today’s musical artists, Janelle Monae doesn’t just write and record songs. A natural storyteller with a wild imagination, Monae has an artistic vision for each song and album, with plans for detailed music videos for each one, a short film with complex storylines and carefully crafted futuristic characters that turns the traditional idea of a music video on its head, and even a graphic novel based on her latest album, “The ArchAndroid.” For example, it is in this album Monae gives us glimpses of her fictional robotic alter ego, Cindi Mayweather, who makes a run for it after being sentenced to be disassembled for falling in love with a human being.
Even without the magnificent plot concept, the music itself is exceptional. Infectious and catchy, I dare you not to rock out in your seat while you listen to “Tightrope.” Her sound is very danceable and fun, combining R&B and pop, with lush orchestral movements on some tracks (listen for the incredible string section in “Neon Valley Street”), and a 1960’s pop feel on others, and even channeling a honey-smooth, early ‘90’s Sade kind of feel on the classic R&B track, “Say You’ll Go.”
A self-proclaimed tomboy, Monae often steps out in her signature custom-tailored, black and white suits and tuxedoes, and saddle shoes. A unique look for an up-and-coming R&B star to be sure, but in a world full of music hopefuls willing to show a lot of skin to gain attention, her modest getup is among the many reasons P. Diddy wanted to sign her to his label, Big Boy Records. Her signature look has also caught the eye of major fashion influencers Vogue, Chanel & W.
Janelle Monae does the unheard of by fascinating us, capturing our imagination, bending the intellectual limits of “possible,” all while skillfully keeping our toes tapping and remaining exactly who she is.