Janelle Monae: Rockin’ Android on a Mission

Her first album was titled Metropolis, its follow-up – The Arch Android. She has killer rock n’ roll androgyne style and addictive musical-theater-trained pipes. Oh, she also does live painting and has her own label, too. Yet somehow, I hadn’t heard of Janelle Monae before this video for her single Many Moons popped up on my screen last week.

As you can see, Metropolis is a concept album. Its fictional protagonist Cindi Mayweather finds herself in the year 2719 and on the run from android law, because she’s in love with a human. Monae’s next three albums will follow Mayweather’s adventures, some of them in space.

Yep, I’m in full swoon. Monae’s influences might be more than a little transparent, but I just don’t care – the combination is fresh and it’s pop. Great pop, at that. There’s space and robots and art and she’s adorable, but above all that, she gives answers like this in interviews:

I am driven by the need for change. I have had many nightmares about our future and if we do keep living the way we do, killing the way we do, hating ourselves the way we do, I do believe we are headed to the great road of nowhere. I know that I was put on this earth to lead, not to be perfect, but to lead and display a positive example and that is what I will die trying to do.

And I actually believe these aren’t just producer-polished words – Janelle is already working on starting a non-profit organization to help disadvantaged girls develop their artistic side. When, in light of a Grammy nomination, she was asked if she enjoyed being photographed and interviewed, she said, “Only when I have something to say. I’m not a red carpet gal. I wear a uniform for god’s sake! I have a hair machine I stick my head into. I have other duties to worry about.”

You hear that, pop culture? More of it, please. Also, I need a hair machine.

21 Responses to “Janelle Monae: Rockin’ Android on a Mission”

  1. Tanya Says:

    I’ve been smitten with this girl since, believe it or not, I saw her in a GAP commercial. She’s charming in interviews and I love the mix of all the influences she’s got going.

    I need to remember to dig up a magazine in which she’s wearing these amazing two tone shoes, kinda of a revamp of the saddle shoe but the design on each shoe is asymmetric.

  2. el Says:

    great video, very catchy song! i remember a time when i could hear a song and have it get stuck in my head. now it’s becoming more common that i’ll hear a song and get another song stuck in my head. like the recently inescapable “uprising” by muse. when the song ends, i have a song stuck in my head, but it’s not “uprising” by muse, it’s “call me” by blondie. and while “many moons” is a really good, catchy song, i’ll certainly have the pinball machine song from sesame street stuck in my head for the rest of the day..
    maybe it’s just me…
    that being said, i’m about to go look for more of her.

  3. Zoetica Says:

    @El – Then I guess I should feel blessed not to know the pinball song – I’ve had Many Moons stuck in my head for a week, however. Just got Metropolis and am diggin’ it so far!

    @Tanya – I just saw that Gap commercial on Youtube while digging stuff up for this post. It’s completely adorable.

  4. Daniel Says:

    Love her!

  5. Jamie Says:

    I adore this woman, she’s smart, stylish, and has killer pipes AND a great message. We got “Metropolis” at my college radio station a year or so ago and I knew she was gonna be big! I can’t wait for Arch Android.

  6. Vivacious G Says:

    @el – Haha! I totally thought of that Sesame Street piece as well.

    This gal is great fun to watch and her music is actually interesting unlike some other recent poppy gals who can sing and look spectacular but the music – still terribly generic.

  7. R. Says:

    Ever since last year when I heard “Violet Stars (Happy Hunting)” I’ve loved that girl. She’s talented, unique and her music suits my aesthetic to a “T”. Can’t wait for her new stuff.

  8. SL Says:

    I’ve never heard of her before but I’m already infatuated after watching the video. It’s fun, cute, stylish, and she has GREAT FREAKING HAIR. I’ll have to check out the rest of her stuff. Thanks for posting this!

  9. Anda Says:

    I’ve never heard of her either. But now I am in Love. This is why I love this blog, she’s fun, funky, and THOSE SHOES. I need them.

  10. sterlingspider Says:

    Anyone else positively enchanted by the fact that the hook is actually the 1 2 3 FOUR FIVE 6 7 8 NINE TEN 11 12 song from Sesame Street?

  11. Sarah Les P Says:

    Love Janelle Monae, and I’m super happy to hear that she’s releasing more material. I was introduced to her music a year ago and my head just about exploded. I was worried that she’d been dropped from her label for being too amazing, as I hadn’t heard any news in a while.

    Thanks for the update.

  12. la mome neant Says:

    1st time I read about her, and already smitten. Does she perform live? I’m going to do some search on my own, too!

  13. maggie Says:


    I want a suit like her and never walk around in anything else anymore. Also I want that hair and that awesomeness.
    Thanks for constantly making my life this much cooler lately.

  14. fortheloveofthestars Says:

    LOVES. Janelle is amazing. She was the best part of the already out there and adorable “Open Happiness” commercial from Coke.


  15. R. Says:

    @sterlingspider- yes! That’s why I love Many Moons (one of the reasons I do actually).

  16. Emera Says:

    ….I think I’m in love. The visuals! The story! The general adorableness! Thank you so much for this post; I can’t wait to check out more of her music.

  17. Pat Says:

    The Donovan+Savile Sonic Specialists remix is pretty catchy, too.

    (How can I not love a woman who makes a video as robot James Brown?)

  18. Alita Danger Says:

    Wow. What I like most about this video is that she dosen’t fall back on the sexpot idea to make it sellable. She’s not over-made-up. No one in the video is wearing anything that could be termed “skanky”. I love the aesthetic, and the tune is catchy and well produced. I’m off to check out her other stuff now.

  19. mlle ghoul Says:

    I recall hearing about this gal maybe a year or so ago when listening to some public radio coverage on SXSW. At the time I was driving around town, taking care of some run of the mill weekend errands and was so entranced by the story and the music, that I ended up sitting in my car in the parking lot for a good ten minutes just to hear the whole piece.
    Of course once I got home I promptly forgot her name and have been wondering about it ever since (it was almost one of those things weird enough to look back and think…”did I just make that whole thing up?” ) Thank you!

  20. Dulce Says:

    Her performances are incredible, Lady has Mad skills at dancing!
    When I saw her Moon Walk in the video Many Moons, I thought it amazing by how clean her movements are and how natural it came to her: backwards and forward.

    Violet Stars Happy Hunting Captured Me in 08 and man was I
    FLOORED by her song ‘Sincerely, Jane.’ I enjoyed the entire
    Metropolis album. I think its a fun direction she’s taken her music
    and quite frankly its something Id like to see more of.

  21. A. Riggs Says:

    JM is definitely a force to reckoned with! Well, once more people discover the JM experience! This song gets me dancing and puts me in a happy mood. Her live performances are incomparable and I can’t wait to hear more from her!