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4.5 out of 5 stars
Metropolis: The Chase Suite
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78 of 80 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 12, 2008
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
Flash back to the summer of 2006. I'm lazily sitting on my couch watching music videos as the day passes me by. All of a sudden, the new video for Outkast's "Morris Brown" came on. There were talking walls, moving pictures in frames, walking television sets, ferris wheels, flowers and a sun with real faces, a marching band popping out of the hood of a car, and a bright pink bulldog... yet, for some reason, I simply could not seem to take my eyes off this one woman. Even before I found out anything about her, I was captivated with her exotic look, her charisma, pure star power, and energy. I thought to myself, 'this woman is just too spirited to be one of those average video girls.' A year or so later, I found out about Janelle Monae and realized that she was the woman. Instantly, I knew I had to buy this album.

Janelle Monae is unlike anybody else in the business. (Diddy was smart to sign her to Bad Boy. Let's just hope he handles her correctly). Her background in performing arts is clear and she never fails to entertain; even her thank you's gave me a few chuckles. Her voice is unbelievably strong; she could be an opera singer or on Broadway if she wanted to. Her style is fresh and unique. Picture Prince, Outkast, and Gnarls Barkley having a jam session on planet Mars. She uses a live band, which gives her material that much more energy. Her songwriting is out of this world. Literally. She is one of the absolute most exciting new artists I have seen in a long time and she has a promising future ahead of her. This debut EP is a great way to start a career.

Since we are, sadly, in a society where many people simply download a few songs off of each album, Monae has decided to break barriers and release her material in suites: a group of about five-to-seven songs that come out every four months or so. This is the first of four suites in the Metropolis series. But what fun is an album without a concept? In 2719, a city called Metropolis exists. It was once a euphoria, but soon, it was taken over by Wolfmasters and the city became corrupt with conflict and social problems. Android No. 57821, also known as Cindi Mayweather, has fallen in love with (gasp) a human named Anthony Greendown. Isn't that sweet? No! It's against the rules of her society and once the Star Commission catches wind of her little crush, they come searching for her with intentions to kill, hence the subtitle, The Chase.

"March of the Wolfmasters" is a short, spacy and theatrical introduction to the story. Janelle gives a speech as a member of the Star Commission, asking for help from other androids to have Cindi caught, disassembled, and recycled immediately. Up next is the first single, "Violet Stars Happy Hunting!," told through through 57821's point of view. She is running and running up Neon Valley Street, trying to not get caught. She also introduces herself; "I'm an alien from outerspace/ I'm a cybergirl without a face/ a heart/ or a mind." Her vocals flare, and the production is simply perfection. There is a kicking drumbeat that'll most certainly make you dance. The end of the song blends seamlessly into the next track, "Many Moons," making it almost seems like the second movement of one single piece. With a staggering, rhythmic organ riff and an undeniably catchy call-and-respond hook, the track is packed with creative energy. She takes a break to list the problems with the society she lives in and then a lullaby-like chant brings an end to the episode. "Cybertonic Purgatory" is a quick little interlude, but it is just as good as any other track. It seems to me that at this point she has been caught and is trapped in a lonely, echoing cell. In an operatic tone, she sings to her lover, saying they will see each other soon. A vocoder is used to add to the futuristic effect. As much as I love all the songs included on this set, my undisputed favorite is the closing track, "Sincerely Jane," which is an all-too-true social commentary. Backed by an orchestra, pulsating brass, and the occasional clapbeat, Monae lays all her emotions on the line. One line says, "I see them spending money on spinners/ but won't pay college loans." (Something is telling me that Metroplois might be and extended metaphor for America. Hmmm). Two tracks have been added to the end of this special edition: "Smile" and "Mr. President." They are both great tracks, but the only problem is that they don't really fit in with the rest of the album and its theme. In these last two tracks, she jumps out of the character of Cindi and is just Janelle. It shows her versatility, which is excellent, but it ruins the atmosphere and concept a bit. It's not that big a deal, though. "Smile" is a sparse ballad with excellent emotional and vocal delivery by Ms. Monae. "Mr. President" is a simplistic, funky groove begging for social change and progess. The lyrics are very well-written, no clichés here, luckily.

The bottom line: I cannot explain how glad I am that I found out about Janelle Monae, and you will be, too; she is a truly creative artist on the rise and she could change the industry. While this EP is brief, it is one hundred percent quality and has provided me with more inspiration, entertainment, and musical enjoyment than almost any other artist in the industry has given me these days.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2008
Format: VinylVerified Purchase
What do you get when you take an ounce of Grace Jones, two ounces of Lauryn Hill, a pinch of Hooverphonic, a splash of Madonna and a twist of Outkast -- all shaken (not stirred) in a vintage cocktail shaker from, say...1927?

Well, you might get something as utterly intoxicating as singer Janelle Monae.

And perhaps 'cocktail' is the best way to try describing the new music from this way-out-of-the-ordinary R&B, Soul, Funk, Futuristic Rock & Roll singer from an orbit high over greater Kanas City. Her musical mishmash, however, is much more the molotov cocktail type than the cosmopolitan kind.

Monae's EP release, Metropolis: the Chase Suite, explodes from speakers as a fully formed supreme being of arts & leisure. This 'fifth element' of a production is fun, funky, futuristic and smarter than the Hal 9000 super computer in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

In the opening verse of track two on the EP ("Violet Stars Happy Hunting!"), Monae playfully describes herself as "an alien from outer space." And immediately after it becomes clear that she is light years from being your average, everday R&B singer. Thank you, God-father.

For me, the alien description also calls to mind the stereotypical line once commonly heard in old sci-fi flicks and cartoons whenever an alien had established 'first contact' with a human. You know that line which was often issued at the point of a ray gun: "Take me to your leader."

To Ms. Monae I'd say in reply: "Right this way, pretty lady. You and President Kanye will have much to discuss."

St. Paco
Kung Fu Grip! Zine
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 2008
Format: Audio CD
I personally know little about her sans a "You Hear It First" feature on MTV back in early Spring. But upon listening to her music I was definitely thrown off as to why Diddy, a man who frankly is no longer relevant on the music scene anymore, would waste such an innovative artist such as Janelle Monae's time. I long to see what the outcome will be, but the fact still remains that she is a new and fresh face breaking the mold of the usual and sometimes saturated pool of Black female R&B and Pop artists.

I've read comparisons to her sound as being that of Outkast, Gnarls Barkley, etc. but upon first listen this particular 'suite' put me in the mind of Kelis and Joi when they first debuted, from the lyrical content to the whole [outer] space concept. Not ever to say that Janelle is a cheap knock-off because she holds her own on this EP, but if you were/are a fan of those two ladies then she will definitely not disappoint you. Every track stands out; she covers all gamuts of life from social issues ('Mr. President', 'Many Moons') to love (her remake of 'Smile') with infectious, psychodelic beats and soothing harmonies.

I think the overall consensus is that the CD is worthy of more than just 7 tracks, but this is just an appetizer, a little taste because I guarantee the best is yet to come from this very bold and talented artist!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2008
Format: Audio CD
Janelle is a talent which deserves both your ears and your eyes.

I could do without the interludes and maybe the whole futuristic concept is unnecessary (but fun anyway) - but at the heart is her songwriting and voice and it's far superb than so much of the blase R&B out there. She's got a nice live band sound - with real instruments.

Sincerely, Jane is an inredible song. Even more incredible live!

She's fun. She's real. She's talented. She has a unique niche too.

This EP definitely leaves me wanting more.

(but why the 'special edition' tag???)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2008
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
I first caught wind of Ms. Monae a few weeks ago when she performed at NYC-Central Park Summer stage. I was there to see Jose James and was prepared to be bored by the other acts but Janelle Monae impressed me with her energy and stage presence and she ruled the show that afternoon. The songs in her short set had me grooving and thus I came to the ep. I like all on offer here, even the bonus cuts -- her songs are quirky, imaginative, engaging and contain meaningful messages. "Sincerely, Jane" is a show-stopper of a track and I hope it gets widely heard. Musically, there is an echo of the Outkast sound ( a group I can take or leave) but she's has her own personality and a strong palatable voice. If anything she's cut from the 80's new wave mold a la "Missing Persons" ; an era for which I have a particular fondness. I am definitely looking forward to hearing more. My quibble - I am not sure I like the "Suite-ep" gimmick. I may be old school but I would have preferred a whole cd. Also the deluxe edition contains a red vinyl version of the ep with a bonus track (an alternate version of "Violet Stars") along with a cd copy of the ep. Order only if you have a turntable.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2008
Format: Audio CD
Janelle Robinson is what the music industry needs! Janelle is R&b,black-punk rock twisted in one.Her 1st feature was on the Purple Ribbon All-Star Comp Vol 2(2005).I cant believe she's signed with Badboy, hopefully Sean Combs invests into her just as much as his other artist. I can't wait for the full length LP which should be released in Januray of 2009 ( God willing). I need more music please, feed me.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2009
Format: VinylVerified Purchase
I've been following Janelle Monae, so naturally I'd like this album. I consider the direction in which this album's gone to be groundbreaking, and I'd expect no less from her collaborations with Big Boi.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 30, 2008
Format: Audio CD
Upon listening to the intro track I immediately got a bit deja-vu having just gotten done listening to Del the Funkee Homosapien's masterpiece Deltron 3030. It would seem I'm a sucker for the whole future rapper and singer theme, so I immediately dug the CD. As other reviewers have said, there is really only 5 songs on this album, but what IS here is great. I couldn't help listening to the first track "Violet stars happy hunting" and imagine hearing Outkast's "Hey ya" over the beat. Its been awhile since I was awestruck from a singer's voice, so unlike some other reviewers I really liked "Smile" even though its not an energetic dance track. I think her voice alone carries the song. My favorite track is "Sincerely, Jane". I really enjoyed the whole old-school Broadway, big orchestra feel to it. I almost passed up on this CD, I'm really glad that I gave it a chance. You should too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2008
Format: Audio CD
I must say I couldn't be more pleased. Diddy did good this one. I hope he doesn't screw her over like he does his other artists. Ms. Janelle is something. She crosses so many different genres of music it's breathtaking. I love it. I only wish she didn't release it in suites.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
It was on the cover of Paste magazine in 2008 that I first heard anything about Janelle Monae. She was in the cover with another artist I appreciate to her left-Jamie Lidell. Frankly,she had me curious. More over why it wasn't for another few months did I see this CD materialize. And it wasn't until I few days ago from this review did I get lucky enough to see Janelle Monae perform live and purchased this CD. I'd been enjoying her full length set The ArchAndroid for the entire year now. But seeing her concert on October 20'th at the Collins Center at UMO was a truly amazing experience. Her performance is exciting,participatory and very uplifting. And it really helped me to appreciate this EP and where it stands it terms of Janelle's still budding artistry.

Musically this album is very much an introduction to The ArchAndroid. It's not a collection of separate songs. The title should make it clear-the majority of this is a suite. And one very much representing a revival of cinematic funk. "The March Of The Wolfmasters" offers an orchestral spoken word intro to the affair and onto "Violet Stars Happy Hunting!!!","Many Moons","Cybertronic Purgatory" and "Sincerely,Jane". With this accompaniment of grand sounding psychedelic funk/rock Janelle speaks,through the filter of her P-Funk like sci fi concept about the creative freedoms denied us and that we often deny ourselves. And as far as being an innovative,futurist,funk revolutionary philosopher she is completely proud of that. So proud that on the Hi records funky soul of "Mr.President" she's actually sending a message to the Commander In Chief himself-simply asking why we continually are asked to sacrifice our own freedoms to while fighting to manipulate the freedom of others; both in terms of literal and figurative conflict.

Concluding the set is her take of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile",learning as I did that it was the favorite song of Michael Jackson,an obvious influence on Monae. And the way she does the song beautifully vocally re-harmonizes it to support her clear,expressive alto voice. For so many years many of the funk/R&B female artists communicated to us either directly from the streets or the stage. In short there was a lot of "keeping it real" going on and the attitude of explicit messages were on full power. Janelle has a message too. And a very profound one. But she realizes the one thing that propelled all her influences-which from the sound of things seem to range from James Brown to Chaka Khan that the expression of her message would best serve her through both implicit meanings and even a strong degree of sci fi comedy. if Janelle Monae is on a cusp of leading a new musical revolution,it'll probably happen on a dancefloor with a tux and tapping shoes if she has anything to do with it. In the end her keen,elegant fashion sense along with her musical and performance abilities create a complete package we're all going to want to keep an eye on. Because she has every reason to continue delivering on her promise in full.
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