Cheapskate's Guide to the Finer Things in Life
See music's future for free in Houston: Janelle Monáe journeys from GAP toandroid to the Bayou
It's Christmas time and I'm watching TV when a GAP commercial comes on. Janelle Monáe is singing "Winter Wonderland" and her voice vibrato-style sounds like the musical stylings of the time the song was penned in 1934.
Her look and voice intrigued me and then I saw the "Many Moons" video right after Monáe was signed by P. Diddy's label for distribution, Bad Boy Entertainment.
After watching her in action in these videos and in Austin at South by Southwest, I knew that I would always be a fan.
Now, you can see Monáe live for free 2 p.m. Sunday at Cactus Music. She will also be opening for Dallas native, Erykah Badu later that night at the Verizon Wireless Theater. (Rumor is Badu might also come by for a quick set during the free show at Cactus.) Not that you should need more starpower to go.
Monáe was doing something different musically with the second album of her career Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase). These seven tracks that set up the concept for the canvas of Monae's critically acclaimed album, The ArchAndroid, are a must listen.
Monáe's android character Cyndi Mayweather — who in the year 2719 is not allowed to fall in love with a human being but does — gets chased throughout the first album.
This concept continues into The ArchAndroid and like a cleverly woven story, Monáe and her producers make the listener satisfied through a musical journey that seemingly tackles every possible genre. Her enjoyable music also carries heavy messages.
I know of no other artist who shouts out "Jim Crow, my regards" and makes it sound like a great closing bridge. The same socially conscious message is seen Monáe's new album The ArchAndroid, where the track "Locked Inside" presents the life of a woman in the future. While playing the disco piano, Monáe sings, "She always fights, for her man but not her rights/Even though it's 3005."
Under the support of Outkast's Big Boi, Monáe and her style has been defined as "a female Andre 3000" — which is quite unfair because she has made it to this point through her own merit. Instead of comparing her with any other artists, Monae should be place in a league of her own.
Vocally, she has no limits. Monáe could sing the chorus of a funky R&B song in "Tightrope (ft. Big Boi)," belt out a screamo sound in "Come Alive (The War of Roses)", then go silky smooth cabaret in "Neon Valley Street" and "BaBopByeYa" to close. Throughout the entire time, mind you, she is certainly dancing to the honor of James Brown.
Many of you may be asking, why haven't I heard any of this music?
Well, Monáe's an artist that appears to only hit indie music lovers or hipsters. Another interesting aspect is while music critics love her, she still hasn't hit the mainstream after a couple of successful singles.
It seems that Top 40 radio, race, and new sounds make for an interesting domino effect of her not breaking into the mainstream.
Regardless, you would be doing yourself a disservice to not take the journey into the the future with Janelle Monáe and her world.
Watch Janelle Monae in action: