The name Janelle Monáe might not sound familiar yet, but the neo-soul funk artist is no doubt forging herself to be the next big thing in music. Rolling Stone magazine included her in its annual “Hot List” alongside Twilight and Britney Spears in 2008, deeming her the “Sci-Fi Beyoncé.” She also garnered a Grammy nomination in 2009, all before releasing her highly anticipated debut album, The ArchAndroid, due out May 15.
While most struggling new artists play small club gigs, Monáe got her mojo working as an opener for No Doubt and through playing large scale festivals like SXSW. Her animated stage presence has drawn comparisons to James Brown and her voice to that of Ella Fitzgerald, though Monáe’s fashion sense is seen as straight out of year 2147.
Monáe’s conceptual music, consisting of different suites inspired by Fritz Lang’s classic science-fiction film, “Metropolis,” sets her apart from the rest of the newcomer pack. Still, she manages to deliver infectious tracks with a message as opposed to the mindless, trashy hits of today bombarding the radio. On the buzz track, “Many Moons,” Monáe’s uncanny ability to make ’60s rock ‘n’ roll sound contemporary gives music the refreshing new sound it’s been waiting for, a sound void of electro gimmicks. Her latest single “Tightrope,” featuring Outkast’s Big Boi, is a further testament to Monáe’s unique soul-punk vibe, supplying a new dance craze in the process.
Before the buzzworthy singer sets off for promotion of her album, UCSB students will have a chance to see Monáe in action this Saturday night at Storke Tower (for free!) through the Take Back the Night March, a part of Students Stopping Rape’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and also through the university-hosted Womyn of Color Conference.