Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Spotlight : The future is now with Janelle Monaé

The Hurricanes season is beggining and the biggest of them might be called Janelle Monaé. This sparkling tiny black beauty seems to come into our world like an alien, fallen in Area 51 in a shiny UFO and glitter tuxedo.
The reference to science-fiction is not innocent as the 24 years old singer has built her albums on a futuristic concept. Her alter-ego, Cindi Mayweather, an android beauty living in a segregationist city called Metropolis, is a feminine version of David Bowie's 1976 The Man who Fell to Earth, with a messiah-esque mission that recalls Robert Wise's 1951 The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Her adventures are divided in 4 "suites", contained in Monaé's albums Metropolis (2007), The ArchAndroid (2010) and continued in her next work.
The ArchAndroid is a real pearl of music, soon a classic to be, with influences of Stevie Wonder and 60s pop and jazz. I especially love the very breezy Faster and Locked Inside, masterpieces of soul with gospel's accents. Your feet will move by themselves in the playful and rhythmed Tightrope, and Nick Cave would not resist to the wild rock energy of Come Alive. And after dancing in the fire, your soul will fly with Cold War and you will visit a magic and humoristic country with Wondaland. Once you would have listenned to the album, you will have it under your skin, and wish that the ArchAndroid comes to save us more often.
The world created by the young singer owes a lot to Fritz Lang's 1927 movie Metropolis, as indicated by the similarities between the ArchAndroid's cover and the classic movie's poster.
But the cinematic references of Janelle don't stop here : she also quotes Hitchcock, Goldfinger and Philip K. Dick as an inspiration for her projects of graphic novel and even movie adaptation of her albums. Maybe it is a leftover of her former training as an actress and of her Broadway's dreams ?

The native of Kansas City transformed herself into a funky Phantom of the Popera when she moved to Atlanta and met OutKast's singer Big Boi. Soon, he invited her on the band's album Idlewild and encouraged her to stand on her own two feet. He didn't have to tell her twice : the rocket Janelle was launched.
In 2007, she founded the Wondaland Arts Society with like-minded artists Nate "Rocket" Wonder and Chuck Lightning who helped her producing her debut EP. She was then quickly spotted by Sean "Diddy" Combs who signed her on his label Bad Boy Records and released Metropolis. The success was immediate : in 2009, she is nominated for the Best Urban/Alternative Performance for her single Many Moons at the Grammys. She also did the opening of indie pop band Of Montreal, rock band Paramore, singer Erykah Badu and famous band No Doubt, on their summer 2009's tour. Meanwhile, she performed her single Tightrope on many popular TV shows, including Lopez Tonight, the Ellen DeGeneres' Show and the Late Show with David Letterman.

Her style is also a phenomenon discussed on fashion magazines such as Vogue, Elle, Teen Vogue and In Style. In 2010, she finally won the Vanguard Award of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers at the Rhythm & Soul Music Awards, presumably not her last achievement ...
The one who is described by Vogue Magazine as "a different kind of diva" and who thinks that music has the potential to change the world, hasn't finish to amaze us. The ambitious young darling, modern mix of Judy Garland, James Brown ( especially when she dances ! ), Ziggy Stardust and Prince, seems to be eager to take the future by storm ...
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