August 6, 2010
Ed. Note – This is a hastily written post about a topic probably no one cares at all about.
There’s something pestering me about Janelle Monae’s recent album “ArchAndroid.” It’s a departure from your run of the mill pop album. It doesn’t sound anything like the other chart toppers out there. I guess I just find it a little bit more thoughtful than “California Gurlz.”
However, an album being a little bit more thoughtful than current pop music is like someone being a little bit richer a homeless person. I don’t have a problem with this, unless that someone goes around giving interviews about how rich they are and how poor the homeless person is.
Basically,“ArchAndroid” is supposed to be some type of concept album based on the 1927 silent movie “Metropolis” by Fritz Lang. Monae allegedly created her own character, an android avatar living in a future dystopia, and we listeners are supposed to follow her through a sci-fi journey. Of course, I read a press release about this and immediately bought the album. I like concept albums: Coheed & Cambria, the Mars Volta, Rush, and the Flaming Lips all have a good grasp of what needs to be done to execute a good concept album: cohesive tone, a sense of place, and a story that relates all these things.
After listening to “ArchAndroid” a few times, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not a concept album, but it was marketed that way. Basically, some jagoffs in advertising at BadBoy Entertainment (they produced the album) had a meeting with Puff Daddy that went like this:
Jagoff 1: There is a big undercurrent of people saying that the music that we put out is making everyone in the world really stupid. The endless repetition of similar sounds; the meaningless lyrics; the empty, untalented human vessels who we auto-tune to stardom. We’re going to eventually alienate an intelligent and very valuable segment of the public.
Jagoff 2: ‘Intelligent segment of the public?’ So you’re saying we’re losing the nerd demographic? How do we get them back?
Puff Daddy: Star Wars. Make an album about Star Wars.
Jagoff 2: Star Wars is a little obvious. But I like the sci-fi album angle. The problem with nerds is they hate when something is really mainstream. So we have to pick something so obscure that only select people will even know it exists, thus giving it credibility.
Jagoff 1: My nephew is a sci-fi hipster. I remember at Thanksgiving he kept ranting about this German silent movie called “Metropolis.” Seemed pretty obscure.
Puff Daddy: Perfect. Now who do we get to sing the album?
Jagoff 2: (throws a cluster of headshots on the table) Take your pick. We need someone pretty.
Puff Daddy: (pointing at Janelle) How about her? She’d be OK. But we need to give her a weird haircut though, again for credibility.
Jagoff 1: So who will write the lyrics on the album?
Puff Daddy: I’ll do it! (brings up Wikipedia page on Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’) Blah, blah, blah…android. Blah, blah, blah…future. Blah, blah, blah…love. There. Done.
Jagoff 2: Wow! This is going great. Now we just need this Janelle Monae chick to do a press junket and make herself sound really important.
Real excerpt’s from Janelle’s interviews (with my snarky commentary)
“We’re growing up in the iPod generation in terms of genres. I do away with labels and categories. I don’t believe in them,” Monáe says. “That was created by man.”
You don’t believe in labels or categories? Your pantry must be a real disaster. Also, you do realize you just labeled an entire space of time “the iPod generation?” You say you don’t believe in labels because they were created by man. Who do you think created your I pod?
“I make music for the people. I come from a very working-class family. My mother was a janitor. My father drove trash trucks. My stepfather, who’s just like my father, still works at the post office.”
I’ll bet your working-class parents can really relate to an album based on an obscure German Sci-Fi film produced before they had audio tracks in movies. This album is dedicated to you, postal workers!
“A lot of these songs came to me in my dreams. I had to have my iPod recorder near my bed at night,” she says. “It’s been haunting me for a very, very long time.”
Lyrics from “Tightrope (featuring Big Boi):”
“You can’t get too high. You can’t get too low. ‘Cause you get too high, you’ll surely be low.”
“I was very inspired by a quote (in Metropolis) that says, ‘The mediator between the mind and the hand is the heart.’ I’ve always considered myself the heart. The ArchAndroid is the heart.”
This is literally the poster tagline from the movie. It’d be like saying, “I was inspired by this one really great quote from Cop and a Half with Burt Reynolds. It goes, ‘One kid’s dream. One cop’s nightmare.’ I think that my music can induce dreams and nightmares.”
Nice try Janelle. You almost had me fooled.