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Metropolis: The Chase Suite (Fantastic Edition)

Janelle Monáe

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Album Review

Janelle Monáe's uniqueness was not apparent from the beginning, as heard on Big Boi's second Got Purp compilation. The neo-electro remake of DeBarge's "Time Will Reveal" and the Off the Wall-emulating pop-funk of "Lettin' Go" were standouts — even amidst nuggets like Konkrete's "S**t Ya Drawers," believe it or not — but Monáe seemed destined to be one of those artists who appears on a glorified mixtape and either disappears or makes one under-promoted album prior to fleeing the industry. Even after spotlights on OutKast's Idlewild, it could not have been known to many outside Monáe's Atlanta circle that she was much more in line with Nona Hendryx and Afrofuturism than Ciara and 106 & Park. She probably has more time for Octavia Butler than Perez Hilton. Inspired by Fritz Lang's 1927 science fiction classic, Metropolis, Suite 1: The Chase is the first of four planned releases designed as easily processible EPs detailing the life of a rebellious soul-equipped android who risks disassembly by falling in love with a human. Strip away the concept, the packaging, and the equally entertaining and deep lyrics dealing in class/race, slavery, isolation, and love — all of that material, as crucial as it is to the whole — and there remains a handful of magnetic songs transferred through theatrical soul, 21st century new wave, ice-coated opera, and brassy hip-hop funk. The disc's center is made of "Violet Stars Happy Hunting!!!" and "Many Moons," conjoined songs that trump anything on the André 3000 half of OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. "Sincerely, Jane" is dressed up in all the fantastical instrumentation of an otherworldly Broadway production but is as grounded in grim realism as Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues" or 2Pac's "Brenda's Got a Baby," and like those two songs, it is fueled by despair rather than self-righteousness. Monáe's voice is knockout level throughout, likely versatile enough to handle any style with effortlessly expressive ease. [The "Special Edition," released by Bad Boy nearly a year after the original independent version, adds two bonus tracks. "Mr. President," a protest song, has a relaxed Hi Records throwback arrangement and a neo-Ernie Isley guitar flame-out; "Smile" is a skeletal, gently uplifting ballad.]

Customer Reviews

Eccentric

I've been listening to Janelle Monae for a while now and I really like the material she's been putting out, especially the whole "alien/cosmic/robotic" theme. What makes this concept album work is that 1. The girl can sing. She has this very soulful but sweet voice. It kinda of has this classic feel to it. 2. The songs are not boring at all, very good musicanship. 3. The lyrics are fun, colorful, eccentric...and very original. Janelle is able to take classic motown soul and mix it in with contemporary neo-soul/R&B. She is has something we are missing into today's mainstream R&B. Her songs are not about shaking around for men or of any other explicit/sexual nature, they are just about love and lost of it...yet she is able to tell a story is her songs. So please check out her stuff. If you like Janelle, you might also like Jamie Lidell and Sam Sparro.

a real artist

wow ... real artists are hard to find these days. this reminds me of back in the day with 'tommy', and 'purple rain' and whatnot; the artistry and sound, with a present day twist. i'm really liking it and am hoping she'll catch on to the general public. she has a beautiful voice and is just; interesting, in a good way. i will be following her career for sure.

stupendous

i can hardly come up with words. groundbreaking and original. so much so that it will never get played on radio, alas. i'm a sucker for a "concept" album and a great voice. wow.

Biography

Born: December 1, 1985 in Kansas City, KS

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Growing up, Janelle Monáe (born Janelle Robinson) felt constrained by the limited resources offered to her in her greater Kansas City, Kansas home. When she finished high school, she moved to New York to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy with the intention of pursuing musical theater, but in 2004, after performing in a couple of off-Broadway shows and realizing there weren't roles available to her that she wanted, she moved to Atlanta to try her luck there. She soon joined a band and...
Full Bio
Metropolis: The Chase Suite (Fantastic Edition), Janelle Monáe
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