Living To Music – Janelle Monáe ‘The ArchAndroid’




YEAR: 2010

This Sunday (Nov 6th), at 9pm, you’re invited to share a listening session with some likeminded souls, wherever you might be. This can be experienced either alone or communally, and you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own home to participate. Full lowdown here:

I first came across Janelle Monáe in September 2010, having caught an interview with her on BBC Radio 4 as I was driving back from Bestival. This prompted a blog post, ‘Galactic Eclectic’:

Her critically acclaimed album, ‘The ArchAndroid’, was a breath of fresh air to these ears. It was great to hear something so original and free spirited, which harked back to the concept albums of an earlier age, but with a futuristic slant via her unique approach and subject matter. As an artist she’s struck the right balance – her references are there to hear, but not in an obvious way. I can guarantee that you’ve never heard an album quite like ‘The ArchAndroid’ – Monáe is very much her own person, that’s for sure.

As I mentioned in the ‘Galactic Eclectic’ blog post, it’s the type of album that some people won’t necessarily get into first time around, but will absolutely adore by the third play. It’s not really a stick it on in the background kind of thing, but demands your full attention, which is why I feel it’s an ideal Living To Music selection – an album you need to lose yourself in to get the most out of. Hopefully this provides the opportunity for some people to experience its quirky brilliance for the first time.

Your own thoughts are always welcomed, and, should you join us for Sunday’s session, it’d be great if you could leave a comment here after you’ve listened to the album sharing your impressions – how the music affected you, who you listened to it with, where you were, plus anything else relevant to your own individual / collective experience.

Janelle Monáe The ArchAndroid Wikipedia:

Living To Music Facebook Event Page:

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16 Responses to Living To Music – Janelle Monáe ‘The ArchAndroid’

  1. alberto October 31, 2011 at 6:07 pm #

    ciao Greg i think you great as usual!

  2. Jay Ru November 2, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

    Nice post Greg, i nice to see that this album is still getting the attention it fully deserves. One of my biggest regrets this year is not getting to see her perform live but i’m sure there will be plenty more chances to do so. The album is easily one of the best albums to have been released in the last year or so and i still have it on heavy rotation. Oh Maker, 57821 and I Come Alive being my favored cuts of the lp

  3. Kat November 2, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    I’ve seen her live twice now and both times were incredible. She’s a fantastic performer, with the music to back it up. I do need to sit down with the album properly, as although I’m familiar with the ‘hits’, there’s so much more I’m missing.

  4. Bryan November 6, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

    Great tip. Listened to this for the first time tonight and really enjoyed it.

  5. Paul Wright November 6, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

    Great listening experience and a real audible treat! Very refreshing! 🙂

    This was the first time I’ve listened to Archandroid and will definitely have to listen to it again…. I need to listen to Suite I too! The album carried a great atmosphere from beginning to end, there’s a definite feel of being carried away to another place with some of the incredible fusion that goes on….at times it felt akin to some classic Disney. Musically l really enjoyed it on many levels a real sensory immersion! Orchestral sounds, jazz, funk, bouncey hip-hop, organ sections+intros/outros, soul, pop, rock….the whole thing feels quite psychedelic. It seems to straddle a huge musical spectrum.

    I did recognise some of the album too and found myself making links to all sorts of stuff from The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson…tonnes of other stuff in there too I’m sure.

    Best bit for me was Say You’ll Go I was thinking, sounds a bit like Whitney Huston meets Derrick May with a lovely message. Then Clair De Lune kicked in, I was getting full on rushes/goose bumps!

    Really enjoyed it Greg!

    All the best

  6. Little TimmyCollins November 7, 2011 at 12:46 am #

    It was like being trapped in a crap, 70s, Bond film soundtrack,
    Or, standing in an empty disco, waiting for the girl you met the night before, and there’s this awful sound coming out the speakers, you want to run but don’t, she turns up and it’s cripplingly awkward, she seems to like this music and you know there and then, there can be no future in this because you hate the music, you want to wake up in your bed, you want this to be just a bad dream.

    Thanks tho Mr Wilson

  7. Lou Lou November 7, 2011 at 12:56 am #

    I was surprised by the constant changes in style throughout and felt like this was a soundtrack to a play or film. I had read that this was a concept album so was conjuring up all sorts of images to go with the music. I would find it interesting to see her do something visually to accompany her story.

    I also heard the references made by Paul Wright, to Stevie Wonder et al and wondered at the time how purposeful this was. Mostly enjoyed the orchestral pieces and felt that the whole album had many layers that I’d like to hear again.

    Thanks for a totally new listening experience Greg. 😉

    Oh, didn’t quite get that Lil Timmy, did you like it or not? 😉

  8. greg wilson November 7, 2011 at 1:51 am #

    More than any previous Living To Music selection, this seemed to split opinion in the room. To use that well worn phrase, this is definitely one of those ‘marmite’ albums – it’s not something people are indifferent to, it provokes a reaction either positive or negative, which conjures up memories of how some people reacted to Kate Bush and Björk when they first burst on the scene. It could certainly be described as an acquired taste – not for everyone.

    On a personal level, I’m massively impressed by the scope of the album. Like others have said, it takes in a vast range of influences. During one of the tracks I was thinking it sounded a bit like early Queen, but then I realised it wasn’t Queen at all, but Sparks! There are some real curveballs in there.

    The orchestral aspect is fascinating – I’ve noticed other contemporary ‘urban’ artists like Kanye West and Jay-Z experimenting in these areas too, absorbing European classical references into their work, be it recorded, live or on video. It reminds me of how The Beatles shook up pop music in the mid-60’s by, with George Martin’s expert assistance, introducing an increasing amount of classical instrumentation. The ‘Sgt Peppers’ reference is clear here, both albums starting with the orchestra warming up.

    What’s for sure is that you’ve never heard anything quite like ‘The ArchAndroid’, and I applaud that loudly in an era when we’re generally saturated with stuff that sounds similar to, but nothing like as vital as what came before.

  9. cezza November 7, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    Totally bowled over by this album, afterwards I felt I had walked out from one of those epic films when you need time to recover! Initially the sounds created inspired me to dig out all my dad’s old albums that are still under the cupboard 30 years after his death. It was that kind of sound that he would of loved, but mashed up to the extreme. Also the sense afterwards was that of having everything you had ever visibily seen in life packed into one room! I was almost on overload!

    The begininning of the album with it polyphonic rhythms and ultra heavy bass was a real treat, but then I was blasted into some extreme club anthem? So many themes, so many styles, where do you start.? Adored Clair de Lune, It was like Debussy vs Wizzard of Oz in my reality! This album takes you through a massive journey, some of its a breeze, some of it a struggle and the rest is just very very interesting! I’ll be preparing myself for the second listening very soon.

    LTM love it!!!

  10. BrianE November 7, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    Incredibly interesting album. Enjoyed the opening with that sense of expectation you have when you hear the orchestra tuning up. The first vocal track the singer was not exactly rapping but not singing a melody either and it felt she was part of the rhythm section for me, just like another percussion part with words. As the album went on the vocal style expanded and she has an amazing voice. I wasn’t sure what era I was in or what to expect next but despite the increasingly disparate sounds and musical genres the whole thing had a common thread and did hang together remarkably well, which was a bit clever. The last two tracks (in sections) have a similar theme and chords to the end of the first and immeditaely after the album had finished we compared track 17 and the end of the first and were singing melodies from one track over the other. Loved the references and the Debussy clip, which was being intergrated with the vocals but in a different style completely……….. amazing! Claire De Lune was one of my mum’s favourite pieces of music, as she had heard it first from her mum. I know what Cezza means when she talks about going under the stairs do dig out all the old records of her dad, that kind of generational thing struck a chord with me also. The album for me is extraordinary and gonna have to listen to it many more times to get the most from it. Thought there was some amazingly clever production and although Janel is named as the artist there are so many people involved with this and it the feel of a great team at work. It’s too big for one person to take all the credit!

  11. TC November 7, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    Having heard this album a few times recently, I was surprised by how many references I had missed on previous listens. I heard many of the references mentioned by previous commenters and even heard B52’s in the mix somewhere. Heavily layered sounds give the album a very psychedelic feel. Reminded me of Love “Forever Changes” and The Rotary Connection. The other thought I had was that this must have been an enormous budget for a debut album. A rarity to find such conviction from a label in this day and age. This is not a very accessible album but it is quality artistry.

  12. Paul Wright November 7, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    It wasn’t Whitney, it was Randy Crawford (one day I’ll fly away) and strings of life for me…that seems to make a bit more sense too! Definitely got the Wizard of Oz feel like Cezza said on this and other tracks too, those choral harmonies certainly give it a ye olde other worldy feel that’s for sure!

    Interesting to read Brian’s comments about singing back, I actually found myself singing track 2 over track 3 for while on the first listen…that’s never happened before!

    There was a certain overload experience with this and left me feeling a little fried! I struggled to get meaning as I was saturated with the music. Nearly twenty four hours after listening I’m still remembering stuff folk, Simon and Garfunkel, Strawberry Fields…nuts! Hopefully it will make more sense when I listen again.

  13. Gavin Kendrick November 9, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    This was the first time I’d listened to the album in full, I’d heard ‘Tightrope’ in passing and it didn’t really draw me in. I also knew that her live shows had been winning rave reviews.

    The second track surprised me with its broken beat rhythm, but after that failed to match my increasing expectations.

    It’s certainly an ambitious project – the musical scope of the album is impressive. With so much production though, I didn’t really ‘hear’ Monae’s personality shine through and overall it left me cold. The uptempo tracks in particular sounded overbearingly loud.

    Despite its shortcomings though, it was pleasingly ‘out there’ and I’m interested to hear what comes next!

  14. lec November 10, 2011 at 7:52 pm #

    It was kindda hit and miss for me. I loved Tightrope, but was intitially enthralled by the video that went with it, before I really liked the song and I cannot stand Cold War, so I guess that is still the same for me.

    It was great to hear the whole thing, although, it’s not really a whole thing, it’s lots of different concepts running into and around, over and under each other.

    However, surprisingly, I really wanted it to end. Would love to see her show live though!

    Little Timmy, I am with you, awkward at the dreadful disco x

  15. Raul November 13, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    I listened this album in my bedroom completely alone, while my wife was in gym with my daughter and my son was watching cartoons. So I have the perfect space to give 100 percent of attention to this album. I have heard the track ‘Tightrope’ and I love that song. The rest of the songs were completely new to me. It was a nice surprise to find so many different types of sounds in a single album. The ‘Suite Overture II and III’ at the beginning of the album and other in the middle are simple amazing. Other excellent song that I find specially beautiful is ‘Say You’ll Go’. I really enjoy listing this album and I will listen one or two more times to really appreciate the beauty of this album.

  16. kermit November 14, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    well greg you where the one that got me into this album in the first place and when i first listened 2 it i thought it was a bit hit n miss.but as the weeks passed and i drove around it seemed to go on heavy rotation and before long i was singing along with “nearly” every track i even went 2 see her live ..i was a bit shocked when u said this was the next L2M in that i surmise you consider it a classic…. well if truth be told i have to agree..i think she has a voice to die for an she is sooo stylish another good choice….

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