Seamless Remix – The ArchAndroid

Emily Rothkopf

Janelle Monae’s The ArchAndroid reads like a perfectly-produced film – perhaps like a Quentin Tarantino film, remixing every genre at-hand, yet in one meticulously crafted and cohesive work of art.  Many artists today, particularly in the hip-hop genre, employ remixing/sampling for shock value – it produces a juxtaposition of sounds that perks the listeners’ ears up.  The ArchAndroid however manages to remix genres so seamlessly that the listener flows from one song to the next, or one scene to the next, without even realizing the change of scenery.  Monae clearly doesn’t want to fit in as another modern day, mainstream and cliched artists.  Like other innovative artists, she positions her music against what she doesn’t want to sound like or be, and affirms the styles or traditions that she wants to expand (Irvine 2013).  In this case, perhaps Monae is rejecting the idea of the formulaic pop artist and expanding upon the idea of the composer – an artist working with samples and directly with sound, “thus becoming more like [her] counterparts in the visual and plastic arts” (Katz 2010).  In The ArchAndroid, Monae samples sounds from R&B to folk to cinematic scores, in shifts that “seem intuitive rather than jarring” (Perpetua 2010).  The result is somewhat oscar-worthy.

  • Suite II Overture — Initial applause symbolizes a live performance, which is then followed by stringed instruments.  The combined sounds transport the listener to an opera house, experiencing an orchestral performace.  Like other tracks on the album, there is a cinematic vibe here.
  • Dance or Die — This is an example of Irvine’s “Sound Stack 1” with its electronica sounds and vocal repetition.  Mixed in are the hip-hop and funk genres as symbolized via fast, spoken word vocals.  A rock guitar riff is also added in as an interlude.
  • Faster — This is a fast-paced R&B track mixed with background female vocals and funk/hip-hop beats.  Also included is a “ladies and gentleman” introduction to another musician, reminiscent of the classic R&B genre.
  • Tightrope — This is an R&B and funk inspired track with a hip-hop/rap inspired male vocal interjected.  The song closes with big-band inspired instrumentals.
  • Oh, Maker — Monae sounds like a whole new vocalist on this folk-inspired track that seamlessly shifts into R&B.  The background vocals are notably beats, not lyrics.
  • Suite III Overture — This track is like a cinematic score and reminiscent of an old film from the 50’s/60s.  It’s opening is reminiscent of the classic song “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
  • Wonderland — This song seamlessly shifts in from the last track.  It has a 90s pop sound with a futuristic vibe, as relayed through the tech-modified vocal.  The track closes with a church choir–esque “hallelujah” vocal.
  • BaBopByeYa — This is a jazz influenced track where the listener can envision Monae as a cabaret singer in a black-and-white film, singing into a vintage 50s style microphone.
  • Locked Inside — There is a 70s dance music vibe to this track, which is mixed with R&B style background vocals.

Works Cited

Katz, Mark.  “Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music.” University of California Press, 2010. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

Irvine, Martin. “Popular Music as a Meaning System.” Georgetown University, 2013. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

Perpetua, Matthew. “Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid.” Pitchfork. N.p., 20 May 2010. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.