ELLE MATADOR: JANELLE MONAEPublished by on Tuesday, April 20, 2010 at 9:02 am.
Janelle Monáe is beautifully bizarre. A tiny, Oreo-clad enigma in saddle shoes and tails. And then, of course, there’s the ever-present bouffant with a personality of its own. You may recognize the ArchAndroid by her uniform and chigon, but until you’ve witnessed her perfectly-poofed pompadour explode into an untamed corkscrew mane, you haven’t earned the right to call yourself a fan.
Since we met Janelle, six years ago she’s gone from intergalactic ATLien-ette with a Big Boi co-sign to a moon-walking P-funk phenom with a Bad Boy contract. She’s got this boundless, operatic wail that turns up the intensity on her homespun, juke-joint jam sessions. She dusts the stage with Baby Powder and puts a spit-shine on dusty classic funk/soul. Her upcoming major-label debut, The ArchAndroid feels like her “Hey Yeah!” moment. “Janelle is one of the most artistic signings of my career,” Diddy says of his newest recruit. “This young lady is the future of music.” Trust — it’s more than dutifully, hyperbolic support. Diddy knows the value of the jewel he mined.
And then there’s her entourage. A cultish crew of tuxedo-clad disciples, The Wondaland Art Society/Bad Boy is reminiscent of a 60s Warhol-esque collective (minus the drugs, of course. These kids are high on nothing more than creativity and paint fumes.) It’s easy to confuse their loyalty and love with worship. Don’t. Just recognize it as an intense gratitude for providing something inspiring and game-changing. And pay attention before you miss something.
What was the inspiration for the “Tightrope” video?
Janelle Monáe: The song is about balance. I’m an artist and I think it’s important that we don’t think too high or too low about anything, whether it’s praise or critical advice. Everyone thinks they’re a critic. I wanted to empower individuals but in a fun and funky way. Not a preachy type of way. We had a lot of fun shooting the video. It takes place at the Palace of the Doges. I’ve heard great things about this place, Jimi Hendrix [and] Charlie Parker [performed] there. I got the opportunity to go there and really study the vibe. This was a time when dancing was forbidden, so I re-enacted a particular rebellious scene that happened. You will get more narratives of my experience at the Palace of Doges as we continue to finish the visuals. It’s an introduction to what it was like staying at this historical building.
The feel of the video portrayed the vibe at your listening experience in NYC. Did you conceptualize the event?
I have a wonderful team at my record label, which I co-founded, The Wonderland Arts Society. They’re very smart thinkers, forward thinkers, survivals, artists — from visual art to performance art. We try to help preserve that and come with new content and ideas. We look to the past for inspirations but really focus on the future, using our super powers for good. We all sit at round tables and discuss ways to reintroduce music to the world, transforming music and experiences. We like to think of what we do not just as one event. We want people to experience and be moved, so they can remember that experience for the rest of their lives. We think of the album as an emotional adventure for the mind, just coining new terminology and allowing the listener to be taken on a journey. As artists, it’s our responsibility to take people on a journey. We have the opportunity to see things that the everyday person cannot see. We see beauty and we see art in so many things and we have the opportunity to share in it in a thought provoking and clever way and hopefully they can be more inspired.
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