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Sunday, December 01, 2013
Janelle Monáe Appreciation Week
When I first heard the ArchAndroid, I felt like weeping with joy that stuff this lyrically and musically gorgeous, witty, moving, funky, poppy, emancipatory, citationally insane, and frankly campy (think Queen, ELO, Propellerheads), was happening, that something was actually happening worth happening. These discoveries are our fuel -- and for a long while there they had seemed all too few and far between. I'm starting off my Janelle Monae appreciation with a palpably Stevie Wonder homage from this year's great Electric Lady, but I'll dig in over the week, Monae is a relatively fresh artist still -- stunning, given she's already one of the very best out there -- but there are dozens and dozens of breathtaking tracks I could pick, I'll just go according to my mood from day to day. I should add that one of the things I cannot possibly capture in a week of musical glimpses is that both of Monae's albums as well as her EP function as narrative, thematic, formal wholes -- these are concept albums or at any rate totalities -- like the Beatles did in the 60s, like Stevie Wonder and Bowie did in the 70s, like Prince did in the 80s, but also a bit like Broadway musical albums -- all of which are among the many musical influences here -- and tho' I can imagine the pleasure of dancing to some of these tracks erupting suddenly in the dark on a mobbed floor, I think the best way to appreciate these pieces is to take the whole trip and encounter them in their places within the narrative symphonic arc Monae has crafted (I should add that all three of these larger works, whatever their differences, also suggest narrative thematic musical continuities, eg, they are organized as "Suites" numbered both within and between albums). Also, I must say right away that to start here is mostly to miss the indispensable afrofuturist vibe without which you can't really make sense of what Monae is doing, but there's time to get into that. Enjoy!