Janelle Monáe - The ArchAndroid (****)
album review for the skinny
It's easy to hear why Janelle Monáe has taken four years since her breakthrough as a guest on OutKast's Idlewild to complete her own debut album: The ArchAndroid is a staggeringly ambitious attempt. It's a first-time shot at a grand conceptual masterpiece that makes you wonder whether, considering the struggling record industry, she's perhaps pegged this as her only chance. She'll surely get another because her talent is obvious – the Big Boi-featuring Tightrope shuffles to an African rhythm before heckling horns intervene, Faster glides effortlessly and exuberantly like a Solange take on Stevie Wonder's Keep On Running, and Neon Valley Street showcases the full expressiveness of Monáe's voice. Almost inevitably for an 18 song opus, there are missteps – Make The Bus, featuring Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes, irritates as a Love Below pastiche, and the psychedelic ballad Sir Greendown frustratingly interrupts the momentum of a fantastic opening sequence. There is a masterpiece here, but it’ll take a little skipping to find it.