The “lethal android”
steps up with a high-profile free concert for Young Americans For Obama this
weekend in support of our President Obama’s re-election campaign.
BY A.D. AMOROSI
Editor’s Note: In the
fall of 2010, for issue number 9, our cover story featured funk/soul upstart
Janelle Monáe as part of our feature on Of Montreal, whose frontman Kevin
Barnes was depicted in a series of provocative, gender-bending photos with Monáe.
The songstress, of course, had famously collaborated with Barnes – at the time,
Of Montreal’s False Priest had just
been released, as well as Monáe’s The ArchAndroid (featuring production assists from Barnes) – so Contributing Editor
Amorosi was able to sit down with both artists to see what was on their minds.
Cut to the present: just yesterday it
was announced that Monáe would be doing a free performance this Saturday (Aug.
4), at the Arts Center
in Carrboro, NC, as part of a Young Americans For Obama
event being held from 6-9 pm. According to a press release, “At the show, we’ll also share some tips on
effective ways to talk about the President’s accomplishments that will help our
organizing here in North Carolina.
We’ll bring other young people into this organization at a critical moment, and
make sure as many as possible head to the polls in the fall to support the
Monáe has appeared at numerous Obama-related events in the past (check out a promotional video clip, below), so it’s no surprise she would lend her talents to this one.
Worth noting: If you plan to attend,
make sure you RSVP beforehand: “Young Americans, join OFA
NC at The Arts Center
this Saturday for a President Obama Birthday Celebration and Gotta Vote Concert
with Grammy nominated singer and song writer Janelle Monae! Learn why Janelle
supports President Obama and Democrats in North Carolina and the important role young
people play in this election. Doors open at 6pm, so be sure to arrive early to
save your spot.”
With the event literally taking place
in the backyard of BLURT’s offices – we are in Raleigh, NC – and with this
magazine’s staff 100% behind President Obama, we’d be remiss if we didn’t lend
our support by helping draw attention to it. To that end, below we present
Amorosi’s original report on Monáe that ran as a sidebar to the Of Montreal feature (the
photo below of the two musicians was taken by Patrick Heagney exclusively for
us). It’s a couple of years old, of course, but we never actually got around to
running it here on the website, so consider it duly archived now. Monáe
continues to be an endlessly fascinating performer, and she never puts on
anything less than a dynamic performance.
And consider, also, throwing your
weight behind our President this fall when it comes time to vote. There’s a lot
at stake. Okay, over to you, Dr. Amorosi….
BLURT MAGAZINE, ISSUE
9, 2010: Janelle Monáe may be
the only present-day artist and personae that can out-outlandish Of Montreal’s Kevin
Barnes. Together – as they are on hers and his recordings – they’re lethal.
Along with wowing fashionistas with her molded
Afro-pompadour and tightly-tailored formal wear, Monáe’s music (2007’s Metropolis, Suite I: The Chase EP, this
year’s The ArchAndroid) comes on like
nothing else that’s come out in the last decade. She’s equal parts futuristic
new wave and sweat-inducing funk. Her songs are robotic without being cold. Her
vocals are endearingly romantic and passionate with an elegant operatic howl,
clarion clear diction and a soul-sonic scream that’d break James Brown’s car
windshield. And somehow, Monáe’s oddly sci-fi detailed, character-driven songs
are up close and intimately personal.
The Kansas City,
Kan., singer and composer (born:
Janelle Robinson) grew up with Alfred
Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight
Zone on television and Octavia E. Butler novels on her nightstand. By the
time she got to the American Musical and Dramatic
Academy as the only African-American
female in most of her classes, she found a bolder vision than what she had in Kansas. “But I don’t
know that I had to escape that environment, since I left voluntarily,” she
laughs. “Kansas City
represents the underdog. I like that.” She tapped into that by being a
self-taught writer, singer and instrumentalist in New York City who didn’t want to sound like
anyone else – in her words, “I wanted to create my own musicals.” And she soon
formed her own umbrella company/record label, the Wonderland Arts Society.
“When W.A.S. puts its heads together, we figure out how we’re going to make the
thing and get the music to the people so to show them what we love-a different
blueprint if you will.” Monáe, it seems, cultivated that can-do attitude in Kansas.
Monáe’s characters and storyline for ArchAndroid came to her in dreams and come across as such. (She’s
releasing a graphic novel, too.) Yet, the concept
album is a balancing act between taut melodies and dramatically-told love songs
that still remain solidly accessible to those who don’t care about clones named
Cindi in the Palace of the Dogs geno-raped in the 28th Century then sent back
to the 21st Century. “We wanted you to hear these songs and love them separate
from the concept even if you didn’t
know the story,” she explains. “We wanted you to get connected and be moved.”
Most moved by Monáe (and she by him) was Kevin Barnes. When
she was taking meetings with labels (Sean Combs’ Bad Boy/Atlantic got her), Monáe
knew there was a strong audience for what she did and knew an independent music
scene in her adopted home of Atlanta
would “get” her. Which is how she met Barnes. “Of Montreal is self contained. So am I. I don’t
appeal to blue state or red state. I appeal to the purple state, the middle
ground between the head and the hand which is the heart is. Him too. When I met
Kevin our energies just connected with each other.”
Monáe and Barnes met after one of OM’s
shows and the two realized how much they had in common. “His music is so
intriguing and he’s inspiring to watch,” Monáe says. “I think he thinks the
same thing of me. Our spirits talk to each other, our songs talk to each
other.” Before each started the other’s newest album, they allowed each other a
peek into the most skeletal of phases. Each had their own ideas. Each arrived
at nearly the same place. “I love what he had in mind for me-it was about having
the same frequency,” says Monáe. “I was moved. I don’t get into things that
don’t move me. I don’t categorize what I do or what I like. Neither does he. We
liked being a part of each other’s art, each other’s life experiment.”