Janelle Monae is an American singer, songwriter, dancer, and performer. She is currently signed to the Wondaland Arts Society and Bad Boy/Atlantic Records. Monaefirst introduced herself to the music scene with a conceptual EP, Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), which gained her a Grammy nomination for her track “Many Moons”.The EP failed to make much of an impact commercially peaking at 115 in the United States.
In 2010 Monaereleased her first studio album, The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III), a concept album sequel to her first EP. It was released to general acclaim from critics and gained a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary R&B Album; the song “Tightrope” was also nominated for “Best Urban/Alternative Performance”. The album also made more of an impact commercially, peaking at number 17 on the US Billboard 200 chart.
In 2007, Monae released her first solo work, titled Metropolis. It was originally conceived as a concept album in four parts, or “suites”, which were to be released through her website and mp3 download sites. After the release of the first part of the series, Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase) in mid-2007, these plans were altered following her signing with Sean “Diddy” Combs’s label, Bad Boy Records, later in the year.
The label gave an official and physical release to the first “suite” in August 2008, which was retitled Metropolis: The Chase Suite and included two new tracks. The EP was generally well-received by critics, garnering Monae a 2009 Grammy nomination in the Best Urban/Alternative Performance for her single “Many Moons”,festival appearances and opening slots for the indie pop band Of Montreal. Monae also toured as the opening act for band No Doubt on their summer 2009 tour. Her single “Open Happiness” was featured in the 2009 season finale of American Idol.
Monae told MTV about her concept for her new album and also discussed her alter-ego named Cindy Mayweather, she said:
“Cindy is an android and I love speaking about the android because they are the new other. People are afraid of the other and I believe we are going to live in a world with androids because of technology and the way it advances. The first album she was running because she had fallen in love with a human and she was being disassembled for that.”
In a November 2009 interview, Monae revealed the title and concept behind her album, The ArchAndroid. The album was released on 18 May 2010. The second and third suites of Metropolis are combined into this full-length release, in which Monae’s alter-ego, Cindi Mayweather also the protagonist of Metropolis: The Chase Suite becomes a messiah-esque figure to the android community of Metropolis.Monae noted that she plans to shoot a video for each song on The ArchAndroid and create both a movie and graphic novel based on the album.
The Metropolis concept series draws inspiration from a wide range of musical, cinematic and other sources, ranging from Alfred Hitchcock to Debussy to Philip K. Dick. However, the series puts Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film Metropolis, which Monae referred to as “the godfather of science-fiction movies,” in special regard.
Aside from sharing a name, they also share visual styles (the cover for The ArchAndroid is inspired by the iconic poster for Metropolis), conceptual themes and political goals, using expressionistic future scenarios to examine and explode contemporary ideas of prejudice and class.
Both also include a performing female android, though to very different effect. Where Metropolis android Maria is the evil, havoc-sowing double of the messianic figure to the city’s strictly segregated working class, Monae’s messianic android muse Cindi Mayweather represents an interpretation of androids as that segregated minority, which Monae describes as “… the Other.
And I feel like all of us, whether in the majority or the minority, felt like the Other at some point.”
Monae received the Vanguard Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers at the Rhythm & Soul Music Awards in 2010. Monae covered Charlie Chaplin’s Smile on Billboard.com in June 2010. In an NPR interview in September 2010, Janelle Monae stated that she is a believer in, and a proponent of time travel. Janelle performed “Tightrope” during the second elimination episode of the 11th Season of Dancing with the Stars on September 28, 2010.