Archive for May, 2013

It’s a bit of a celebration day around these parts, because there’s a new Janelle Monae video, and that means that we’re probably not that far away from a new Janelle Monae album.

The Atlanta-based Monae, and her Wondaland collective, aren’t as well-known as they should be outside of R&B circles, despite Monae appearing in a Cover Girl ad and on bunches of magazine covers.  Monae did appear on Fun’s “We Are Young,” though, which probably helped her exposure a good bit.  Still, even if you’re kind of aware of her from those appearances, her own music is a fresh, vibrant surprise when you finally hear it.  She’s one of the most creative artists out there, and when she’s hitting on all cylinders, it’s hard to think of anyone since Outkast who’s made rap and R&B so funky, weird, and accessible.

Relevant to this little corner of the Interwebs, she also likes to mine science fiction tropes for her songs and videos.  2007’s Metropolis Suite I: The Chase and especially 2010 excellent The Archandroid cloak themselves in a futuristic dystopia.  The story of the Archandroid is essentially this: Monae’s character is actually from the 28th century, but was sent back to the 21st century so that her DNA could be used as part of a clone-based rebellion against Metropolis’s secret ruling class. I think. It’s a little unclear sometimes, but that’s OK. You don’t need to know any of this to enjoy the records, and the videos are visual treats all their own.

Still, three cheers for Monae and her crew for creating some of the most futuristic funk since Parliament stepped off of the Mothership.

This first video, “Q.U.E.E.N.,” is the new one and has a little bit of that sci-fi flair before getting into some straightahead bootie-shaking and a fierce rap by Monae to close things out.  It’s OK that the video and song, to some extent, ditch the science fiction device. One of the things I like about Monae’s approach is that she doesn’t let the concept and the songs get in each other’s way, making use of whatever she needs at the time:

Her older “Many Moons” video features her tale’s clone-heavy aspects and some of its implications:


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