Janelle Monáe (full name Janelle Monáe Robinson) (born December 1, 1985) is an American R&B/soul musician signed to Bad Boy Records and Atlantic Records.
Monáe debuted with a conceptual EP, Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase). The EP failed to make much of an impact commercially speaking with the general public; however, the EP at the time peaked at the 115th Spot on the Billboard Charts in the United States.
In 2010, Janelle Monáe released her debut studio album, The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III) , a concept album sequel to her first EP; it was released widely to the general public under Bad Boy Records. This album received acclaim from critics and gained a Grammy Nomination for Best Contemporary R&B Album. The song "Tightrope" was also nominated for "Best Urban/Alternative Performance"; this album was also more successful commercially officially reaching the 17th Spot on the Billboard Charts.
Monáe was born Janelle Monáe Robinson in Kansas City, Kansas, where she spent her early life; Monáe has stated that the fictional character of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz has been one of her musical influences. She has told reporters that she has dreamed of being a singer and a performer since she was very young. Monáe moved from Kansas City, Kansas to New York to study drama at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.
She attended a Performing Arts School called Freedom Theatre, which is the oldest African-American theatre in Philadelphia. After moving to Atlanta, Georgia, where she met OutKast's Big Boi, Monáe founded the Wondaland Arts Society with like-minded young artists and made appearances on Idlewild, where she is featured on the songs "Call the Law" and "In Your Dreams". Big Boi told his friend Sean Combs about Monáe, whom he had not heard of before. Combs promptly visited her MySpace page, and according to Bad Boy Records' A&R Daniel 'Skid' Mitchell in an interview with HitQuarters, the label boss loved it straight away, "[He] loved her look, loved that you couldn’t see her body, loved the way she was dancing, and just loved the vibe. He felt like she has something that was different - something new and fresh." Monáe signed to Bad Boy in 2006. The label's chief role was in facilitating her exposure on a much broader scale rather than developing the artist and her music, because in the words of Mitchell, "She was already moving, she already had her records - she had a self-contained movement." Combs and Big Boi wanted to take their time and build her profile organically and allow the music to grow rather than put out "A hot single which everyone jumps on, and then they fade because it's just something of the moment".
In 2007, Monáe released her first solo work, titled Metropolis. It was originally conceived as a concept album in four parts, or "suites", which were to be released through her website and mp3 download sites. After the release of the first part of the series, Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase) in mid-2007, these plans were altered following her signing with Sean "Diddy" Combs's label, Bad Boy Records, later in the year. The label gave an official and physical release to the first "suite" in August 2008, which was retitled Metropolis: The Chase Suite (Special Edition) and included two new tracks. The EP was generally well-received by critics, garnering Monáe a 2009 Grammy nomination in the Best Urban/Alternative Performance for her single "Many Moons", festival appearances and opening slots for the indie pop band Of Montreal. Monáe also toured as the opening act for band No Doubt on their summer 2009 tour. Her single "Open Happiness" was featured in the 2009 season finale of American Idol. Monáe told MTV about her concept for her new album and also discussed her alter-ego named Cindi Mayweather, she said:
"Cindi is an android and I love speaking about the android because they are the new “other”. People are afraid of the other and I believe we’re going to live in a world with androids because of technology and the way it advances. The first album she was running because she had fallen in love with a human and she was being disassembled for that."
In a November 2009 interview, Monáe revealed the title and concept behind her album, The ArchAndroid. The album was released on 18 May 2010. The second and third suites of Metropolis are combined into this full-length release, in which Monáe's alter-ego, Cindi Mayweather—also the protagonist of Metropolis: The Chase Suite - becomes a messianic figure to the android community of Metropolis. Monáe noted that she plans to shoot a video for each song on The ArchAndroid and create both a movie and graphic novel based on the album. The Metropolis concept series draws inspiration from a wide range of musical, cinematic and other sources, ranging from Alfred Hitchcock to Debussy to Philip K. Dick. However, the series puts Fritz Lang's 1927 silent film Metropolis, which Monáe referred to as "the godfather of science-fiction movies," in special regard. Aside from sharing a name, they also share visual styles (the cover for The ArchAndroid is inspired by the iconic poster for Metropolis), conceptual themes and political goals, using expressionistic future scenarios to examine and explode contemporary ideas of prejudice and class. Both also include a performing female android, though to very different effect. Where Metropolis android Maria is the evil, havoc-sowing double of the messianic figure to the city's strictly segregated working class, Monáe's messianic android muse Cindi Mayweather represents an interpretation of androids as that segregated minority, which Monáe describes as "... the Other. And I feel like all of us, whether in the majority or the minority, felt like the Other at some point."
Monáe received the Vanguard Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers at the Rhythm & Soul Music Awards in 2010. Monáe covered Charlie Chaplin's Smile on Billboard.com in June 2010. In an NPR interview in September 2010, Monae stated that she is a believer in, and a proponent of time travel. Monáe performed "Tightrope" during the second elimination episode of the 11th Season of Dancing with the Stars on September 28, 2010. Monáe performed at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards in 2011 alongside artists Bruno Mars and B.o.B; Monáe performed the synth section of B.o.B's song "Nothin' On You" and she then performed her track "Cold War" with B.o.B on the Guitar and Mars on the drums. Her performance received a standing ovation.
Her single, "Tightrope" was featured on the American Idols LIVE! Tour 2011, performed by Pia Toscano, Haley Reinhart, Naima Adedapo, and Thia Megia.
In an Interview, Monáe stated that she plans to release two albums in 2012. In the same interview, Monáe said that she plans to tour with some "big names" and "a big band" in 2012. While the tour is not yet announced, Monáe did say that she will perform at Staples Center for three nights in a row. In another interview with Forbes, Monáe also said that she plans to release an ArchAndroid inspired film.
The Telegraph released their interview with Monáe talking about her first studio album where they said "I begin to worry for a moment that Monáe may not just be a humourless science-fiction nerd, but actually an android herself, created in a laboratory as a super-musical cross between James Brown, Judy Garland, Andre 3000 and Steve Jobs, invented to test the desperate incredulity of music journalists". They also compared Monáe to artists such as Lady Gaga, Annie Lennox and Lauryn Hill. Her musical styles have been described as "a soaring orchestral trip enlivened with blockbuster vocals, mysterious imagery and notes of Sixties pop and jazz". The Guardian have noted some of her influences as: Michael Jackson, Prince, OutKast, Erykah Badu, James Brown, Grace Jones, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Bernard Herrmann, Funkadelic and the Incredible String Band. Monáe has stated that she has an alter-ego named Cindi Mayweather who according to Monáe is from the year 2719. In her first EP she gave her alter-ego a back-story stating that she is on the run after breaking the law in her home town of Metropolis after falling in love with a human named Anthony Greendown. Monáe explained about Cindi, saying "The Archandroid, Cindi, is the mediator, between the mind and the hand. She's the mediator between the haves and the have-nots, the oppressed and the oppressor. She's like the Archangel in the Bible, and what Neo represents to the Matrix."
Monáe has gained a signature clothing style of wearing a Tuxedo wardrobe and she said on the matter to Honey Magazine "I bathe in it, I swim in it, and I could be buried in it. A tux is such a standard uniform, it’s so classy and it’s a lifestyle I enjoy. The tux keeps me balanced. I look at myself as a canvas. I don’t want to cloud myself with too many colors or I’ll go crazy. It’s an experiment I’m doing. I think I want to be in the Guinness Book of World Records." In Monáe's concerts she has been noted to hand out her Ten Droid Commandments which encourages her fans to be individuals.
The Telegraph also commented on her image as an artist saying "Sitting in a grey, airless record company office, this slight, stiff young woman delivers her speech in slow, deliberate tones, utterly expressionless. Dressed in her trademark starched shirt and tuxedo, hair immaculately coiffed, Monáe’s face is an opaque mask of perfection: all silken smooth skin, button nose and glassy brown eyes. I begin to worry for a moment that Monáe may not just be a humourless science-fiction nerd, but actually an android herself." She has described her Tuxedos as being a uniform for her career and she has stated that when she wears them that she is working. She also featured in the "Style 100" of InStyle Magazine.
Official Website: http://www.jmonae.com/
MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/janellemonae