Janelle Monae

Janelle Monae

Judy Garland and James Brown inspire Janelle Monae. So do Bjork and Bach. Emerging from this vast range of influences is Monáe's wholly unique artistry, an intoxicating blend of funk and rock, classical and theater, history and science fiction. With her unbridled creativity and intelligent lyrics, Monae is spearheading an entire socio-cultural musical movement whose message proclaims, "Imagination Inspires Nations."

Hailing from Kansas City, Monáe moved to New York City with hopes of flourishing in the musical theater community. Facing a lack of substantial roles for young black women, Monáe relocated to Atlanta in 2003 and enrolled in Georgia Perimeter College. While establishing herself on the city's thriving music scene with her first solo project, The Audition, she met Antwan "Big Boi" Patton of OutKast. He enlisted Monáe for his Big Boi Presents Got Purp? Volume II (2005) album where she contributed "Time Will Reveal" and "Lettin' Go" The latter became a favorite among listeners while Monáe's profile continued to rise with her featured spots on OutKast's Idlewild (2006) soundtrack.

Seeking an outlet for her own projects, Monáe co-founded an independent record company, Wondaland Arts Society. In August 2007, Monáe released her first project for the label, Metropolis Suite I of IV: The Chase. Based on Fritz Lang's film Metropolis (1927), the five-song EP told the story of Cindi Mayweather, an android that falls in love with a human and must be destroyed for not abiding the rules of Metropolis. Each track showcased Monáe's dynamic vocal range, from robotic intonations to operatic trills. The fantasy element of the suite was infused with Monáe's incisive observations about contemporary society and culture, especially on "Many Moons" and "Sincerely, Jane."

With an active online presence and her theatrical, high-energy performances, Monáe garnered the attention of Sean Combs, who proposed a partnership with Wondaland Arts Society to re-release an expanded edition of Metropolis on his Bad Boy label. Following months of promotion, where Combs told Billboard that Monáe was "the most important signing of my career," the EP was re-issued with two extra tracks, "Smile" and "Mr. President," in August 2008. A full-length album is set to follow in 2009.

Janelle Monáe's inimitable vocal style, unique fashion sense, and boundless fusions of genres are a stunning illustration of music's transformative power. Her work is the archetype of the 21st century Artist -- an individual whose independent sensibilities turn the mirror on the times we live while furnishing some of the most memorable melodies and rhythms her generation.

By Christian John Wikane

Leave a comment!