Monday, July 5, 2010

Janelle Monae Revisited: Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the style

If you've heard the name Janelle Monae, chances are you've seen this video, heard this song, or both. My first listen came via the video, and I liked what I heard. But what I didn't get was how this song -- and the entire album it was released on 'The Archandroid" for that matter -- immediately shot to the top of 'best-of' lists for 2010 and received lavish praise from a lot of people I tend to go to for music criticism. It's been called the best album of the year, and others have called it the best album in the past few years. Talk about praise.

Still, I didn't get it. I love Big Boi, who's featured in 'Tightrope' and the song was nice. But it's really outside the kind music I generally find myself listening to. R&B isn't something I tend to listen to, even 'good' R&B, as it were, as I've heard this record described. I gave part of the album a quick listen -- OK, I more had it playing in the background while I did other stuff. Eh, I thought. It's good, but is it that good? I didn't think so.

That has since changed.

Driving back from New York last night, I was listening to an 'All Songs Considered' podcast as they detailed the best albums of 2010 so far. Naturally, this was on the list, and both hosts continued the praise for this record. Now, I don't know if they chose this particular song I posted before knowing it might change the minds of holdouts like myself. But it definitely worked. The song is 'Come Alive (The War of the Roses)' and it is phenomenal. Between the cool, jumping bass line, catchy drums and guitar riffs -- not to mention Monae's voice -- it's a great product.

As I've mentioned on this blog, I try to refrain from music criticism and just say what I like and try to explain why. But this song struck me as the kind of song Gwen Stefani wishes she would've recorded before she became a 'Hollaback Girl' who only worked with hand-clappers and drum machines and wrote songs like 'Hella Good' even as her music became less so. Really, Come Alive is a great song, and it caused me to revisit the whole record. I'm not convinced it's the best album of the year -- certainly not the best of the last few years -- but it is damn good. And that's Janelle Monae Revisited: Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the style.

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