Making her first full-length album, “The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III of IV),” was a galvanizing process for Janelle Monae.
The Kansas City-born singer, songwriter and conceptualist — who first courted attention in OutKast’s 2006 film “Idlewild” and then with her 2007 EP “Metropolis Suite I of IV: The Chase” — recorded the set primarily in her current home base of Atlanta and New York but also worked during tour stops in Turkey, Germany and Russia. She even recorded at a studio in the Palace of the Dogs, an asylum for supposed savants, and welcomed guests such as OutKast’s Big Boi on the single “Tightrope,” of Montreal, Deep Cotton and Saul Williams.
“We experimented with so many sounds, musically,” notes Monae, 24, “from Salvador Dalí surrealism to David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust,’ Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall,’ Stevie Wonder’s ‘Innvervisions’ and ‘Music of My Mind’ to Johnny Williams to Walt Disney.
“There’s just so many inspirations behind it, musically. It was important to make sure the music was challenging and was able to complement the concept.”
The ambitions certainly courted more attention; “The ArchAndroid” — part of a futuristic science fiction tale — debuted at No. 17 on the Billboard 200 chart last month and received mostly rave reviews. And Monae’s concept goes beyond just the music to include a graphic novel, videos for each of the album’s songs and a full feature film that’s currently “in talks.”
And then there’s the future of Metropolis. “We have a ‘Suite 4,’ ” says Monae, who will spend part of the summer on Sarah McLachlan’s Lilith Fair tour, “and we also have a ‘Suite 0.’ But I don’t predict the future. I’m just kind of living right now and just focusing on art. I have to listen to my maker. If it’s something I need to say at a specific time, I’ll say it, but I choose not to try and discuss that, as anything can change.”
Janelle Monae performs with Erykah Badu and N.E.R.D. at 8 p.m. Friday, June 4, at the Chene Park Amphitheatre, Chene and Atwater Streets, Detroit. Tickets are $75 and $55 pavilion, $35 lawn. Tickets for the original May 30 date will be honored. Call 313-393-0292 or visit www.cheneparkdetroit.com.
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