Hot on the heels of her amazing mini-concert at UCSB last month, futuristic performer Janelle Monáe is finally releasing her highly anticipated debut, The ArchAndroid. A concept album about robots, the new set is anything but cold and stiff, featuring 18 vibrant tracks ranging from soul-infused punk to indie rock ditties. Monáe lives up to the buzz that has been surrounding her for the past two years because of her uncanny ability to make retro sound contemporary on this solid set.
The best cut on the album is Monáe’s funky feminist anthem, “Locked Inside,” a track that features the singer foretelling the dangers of the future over rolling electric guitars and disco-esque beats. The track is the most addictive of the set. On her first single, “Tightrope,” featuring Outkast’s Big Boi, Monáe unleashes her soul-punk vibe on a ’60s rock ’n’ roll track with a modern orchestral edge.
Hell breaks loose on the ethereal “Cold War,” as Monáe unleashes an all-out assault on the ears with her acrobatic vocals and track’s intense production. She slows things down and gets her R&B mojo working on “Oh, Maker” as she addresses her creator in a Beyoncé-like fashion over an acoustic guitar and drum machine.
The short but serene “Sir Greendown” is another standout track with Monáe’s souring vocals matching the lush background production and hypnotic rings that encompass the song. Collaborating with indie band Of Montreal on the experimental “Make the Bus,” Monáe and lead singer Kevin Barnes’ vocals play off each other perfectly yielding a psychedelic masterpiece on the plucky electronic track.
With The ArchAndroid, Monáe proves her versatility as an artist who can sing the heck out of whatever genre she’s given, much like a robot made to outperform a human. Monáe’s quirky personality on the tracks gives her album the extra life it needs to move past being just another conventional pop album. Whether intentional or accident, The ArchAndroid is crazy musical experiment gone right for this sci-fi songstress.