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Friday
Jul302010

"I'm an alien from outer space" (c) Janelle Monae

For me, one of the coolest things to happen in music in 2010 is the success of Janelle Monae.  Now, I want to make the purpose of this post quite clear - this isn't meant to serve as an album review, or any kind of promotion of Monae as an artist, but really to celebrate her success and the circumstances surrounding her major label signing.

In 2007, Janelle Monae was selling copies of her debut EP ('Metropolis: The Chase Suite') independently.  'Metropolis' was initially intended to be delivered over 4 EPs and chart the story of Cindi Mayweather - a cyborg living in the year 2719, who is targeted for termination after she falls in love with a human called Anthony Greendown.  The music was as rich in elements of bouncy electronica and funk as it was in cabaret and folk stylings, but all delivered beautifully underneath Monae's impecable and inspiring vocals.

As impressive as the above may sound, the hard truth is very little of the above indicates chart success - I mean that comment respectfully too, as any reader or contributor of this site will  tell you, immense talent doesn't always equate to millions of records sold.  Something about it though struck a chord with Sean 'P Diddy' Combs, and in March 2008, it was announced that Monae had been signed to his Bad Boy Records label, and that he had dubbed her the most important signing of his career since Christopher Wallace.  He would also go on to say "It's so good that it's not a risk, it's not about the sales ... This is more than a business or making money in the music industry.  I could be a part of giving a gift to the world of something like Billie Holiday."

A repackaging of 'The Chase Suite' swiftly followed (with two bonus songs included), and in 2010, we have the debut album, 'The ArchAndroid', released to incredible critical acclaim and has become a standout gem of the year.

If I'm honest, I doubted the album would see an official release - I feared the announcement of "Due to creative differences, Janelle Monae has parted way with Bad Boy Records...", but thankfully that didn't happen.  I won't bore you all with the same old cynical arguement about major labels and their regurgitation of play-it-safe formulas - we all know it backwards - but for an artist to be signed based on their creativity and talent, and then be given all the freedom required to deliver the project she wanted to ... well, I just found it refreshing and something to be applauded.  

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