Soapboxing: Janelle Monáe Is Fabulous...But Why So Little Feedback?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

It's no secret that I have been bouncing about the walls recently about Janelle Monáe and her fantastic effort The ArchAndroid. In the process, I've gotten a lot of "who?" and long winded "oh's" from friends and family who have inquired about the sounds coming out of my speakers for the past few weeks. Yes, my friends and family are little out of the loop concerning Madame Monáe, and they aren't the only ones as it seems that Monáe, even with all the gushing on blogging circuits and recent television appearances, there is still little talk about the tux-and-saddle shoe clad girl from Kansas City.

Jezebel posed the question on Janelle and her quiet praise after noticing that The ArchAndroid debuted at #17 on the charts, they asked: Why do people pay more attention to Ke$ha and others like her and not Janelle Monáe? Race, the lack of skin being shown and Janelle being on the poisonous Bad Boy label are truthful bullets to bite, but we can dig a little deeper and skip Obvious Street.

Recently, I had relayed to some good friends about how The ArchAndroid was the 'different' I had been wanting from someone, anyone, in the music market, and since I'm an selective eclectic it fit with me like a glove. One friend promptly told me that she had listened to Monáe, liked her voice, but thought her sound was "strange" and questioned "will she even be marketable to be a huge crossover star with that eclectic sound?". Good question.

If you have heard The ArchAndroid, or even earlier song releases from Monáe, it is evident that the woman isn't playing follow the leader. She's marking her own path. Genre hopping without batting an eye, releasing sweeping concept albums, as well as brings a certain flair to the stage that has people screaming about her being the next contender as a female reincarnation of James Brown or Michael Jackson. Argue with me all you want, but Monáe isn't doing what a lot of singers are doing at the moment, hence why some are quizzical of how she will be able to contend with chart crunching and praise getting monsters like Beyonce, Lady GaGa, Ke$ha and so on and so forth, as well as why she is getting shafted by the mainstream in the first place.

Sure she is on a well known label, and has the "all powerful" and terribly annoying Diddy guiding her, but sometimes whenever someone steps out of the box for a bit, some shy away, find it too strange, and a little too tedious, and then proceed to ignore it because it's a little "too much". This is where Monáe may lose a mainstream audience, because let's face it, not everyone wants to listen to an 18-song album that is about a cyborg named Cindi Mayweather. Some people just like the music to just be straight shooters of sound, with no surprises or changes. Boring, yes, but music listeners nowadays are fickle people who are always on to the next in less than a minute. Monáe is a bit tough to classify for some, which can explain why people gravitate more to simple sounds of Ke$ha et al. On the flip side, radio, charts and figures aren't always indicators of music domination, so Monáe can thrive regardless, but charts do play a part in what music consumers listen to and buy, thus why can't Monáe's robotic opus get the same treatment as a Lady GaGa album and be a #1 chart topper?

Still do we even want Monáe to reach that high of high for fear that her music would lose some of it's luster? In a dream world, Monáe would be topping charts and proving that R&B music isn't in such a barren battlefield, and actually there are artists that can create music that seems more original and less plastic. If possible, that could be a good outcome, but maybe Monáe does best as a "best kept musical secret" who creatively stimulates their listeners without being overly mainstream, yet meets somewhere in the middle a la Meshell Ndegeocello?

Who knows where Monáe will end up in five years...or even in a year, where we'll see the fruits of her labor really blossom. And maybe I'd rather her be influential later on down the line than just some chart topping fiend. Whatever the weather forecast of the fickle listening public, we have to keep listening and watching to see what moves Monáe will make and if she makes more people sit up and take notice. 


  1. 人不能像動物一樣活著,而應該追求知識和美德 ..................................................

  2. I hear you 110%. It's the kind of Catch-22 that's becoming far too clear about a lot of artists I'm gaining a lot of love and respect for in my old age.

    In the end, I think we should be happy the album is seeing the light of day the way she wanted it to be and not chopped/screwed with by the label. But still...

  3. I absolutely love The ArchAndroid!

    I don't think that having Diddy on your side is such a good thing [I mean, look what happened to Danity Kane who had two #1 albums before their ultimate downfall].

    I'm still confused by Ke$ha's colossal success, while Janelle is still in the back of the bus. I'm glad playing the race card is out of the question, but I ultimately think it boils down to the music buying public (as a whole) being idiots. Janelle is beautiful, beyond talented, educated, positive, etc. yet the public give the auto tune junkie faux sing/rapping about brushing her teeth with a bottle of Jack Daniels three top ten hits and a #1 album...something is definitely wrong with that.

    Until the public takes off the blinders and opens themselves up to quality music, artist actually making art and not noise will never see the light of day


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