I don’t listen to a lot of R&B. I do listen to a ton of classic rock. So that’s my frame of reference when I say that, if Freddie Mercury and David Bowie made a baby together and that baby grew up to be a tiny black woman, that tiny black woman would be Janelle Monae.
I’m a bit late to this cyberpunk apocalyptic android party. Monae’s music caught my attention with the publicity for her third album, The Electric Lady. If you’re a big fan of standard R&B, this one will probably be your favorite out of the three. But The Electric Lady’s mainstream R&B ballads like “Can’t Live Without Your Love” are woven into a grand epic story about a post-apocalyptic revolution led by Monae’s alter ego, an android messianic figure named Cindi Mayweather. If that’s your draw, you’ll want to start with Monae’s indie debut album, Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase). Its themes and imagery draw heavily from the 1927 Fritz Lang silent film of the same name.
Monae’s Afrofuturistic space opera continues with Suites II and III in her debut studio album, The ArchAndroid. Again, I don’t really have the background to assess Monae’s music from an R&B fan’s perspective, but as a fan of classic science fiction and classic glam rock, this is the droid I’m looking for.
Unlike the film franchise I just referenced, the big-budget prequel, The Electric Lady, lives up to its predecessors in Suites IV and V. Now, if you’ll excuse me, The ArchAndroid commands me to dance.