Janelle Monáe has no desire to define her sound.
“It’s genre-less, because it has an energy about it that genres can’t really live up to, so I don’t want to diminish it by trying to restrict it,” the eccentric 24-year-old says about “The ArchAndroid,” due May 18 on Wondaland Arts Society/Bad Boy Recordings.
In fact, Monáe’s album is so genre-less that to promote it this summer she will open up for R&B singer Erykah Badu in May and June, perform at Lilith Fair and tour in Europe and North America with alternative band Of Montreal.
Although catering to diverse audiences, Atlantic Records senior VP of marketing Eric Wong says reaching these different markets won’t be difficult. “Janelle’s style melds pop with a mash-up of soul, funk and rock that will translate across all audiences whether touring with Erykah Badu, Of Montreal or performing at Lilith Fair,” he says, adding that Monáe has previously toured with No Doubt, Paramore and Raphael Saadiq. “Janelle proves that innovative music has no boundaries.”
“The ArchAndroid” veers all over the place-ranging from “Wondaland,” which describes the whimsical, artificial reality of the same title that Monáe has created for herself and her creative team; “Overtures,” influenced by Walt Disney with “symphonies, strings and horns”; “Dance or Die,” a Fela Kuti-inspired track featuring Saul Williams; and “Cold War,” which Monáe says “reveals what the ArchAndroid looks like.”
The first single is the bouncy, bass-driven “Tightrope,” which features the album’s co-executive producer, OutKast’s Big Boi. The song’s video was shot in an unlikely place: a sanitarium.
“It was filmed at Palace of the Dogs, which is a place where a lot of great artists have studied, from Jimi Hendrix to Prince and Miles Davis,” Monáe says. “Dancing is forbidden there because it leads to magical powers that are illegal. So, the ‘Tightrope’ was a very rebellious dance that I came up with.”
To roll out the clip, which was directed by Wendy Morgan (Gnarls Barkley), Wong says the label “offered fans various trailers that served as teasers, with content that people have never seen before,” including “scenes from the making of the record, footage of the tour and a tutorial of the ‘Tightrope’ dance.” The trailers premiered on JanelleMonae.com as well as blogs, various online sites and social networks.
Although she offers little detail, Monáe says her muse for this album-which is a combination of Suites II and III of her 2008 EP “Metropolis”-is Cindi Mayweather, her alter-ego. She also suggests the album is inspired by colors and dreams.
“If I say I want a song to feel bold red, or if I had a song come to me in my dreams, it usually means there was a lot of color in it,” she says. “What I tried to do is make it as vivid as I was able to when I recorded it and capture as much as I could.”
Monáe, who recently wrapped an 11-city trek and is slated to make appearances on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “The Mo’Nique Show,” “Last Call With Carson Daly” and “Lopez Tonight,” says she has embraced her uniqueness and hopes others will continue to do so as well.
“This album has a lot of psychedelic moments and sometimes feels like James Bond or Frida Kahlo, or some of the other surrealists I’ve enjoyed,” she says. “It also deals with self-realization and the things I’ve realized about myself within this project have made me unafraid to make mistakes. I coined the term ’emotional picture of the mind.’ I’m just blessed for the supporters who have been waiting to finally hear the songs I’ve had in my dreams.”