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Day 46: Janelle Monaé – “Metropolis: The Chase Suite” (2007)
Genre: Pop / Funk / Soul / Dance
Tracklist: The March Of The Wolfmasters / Violet Stars Happy Hunting! / Many Moons / Cybertronic Purgatory / Sincerely, Jane.
Before Janelle Monaé became one of the biggest names in radio-friendly soul and funk, she sang her way into critics’ and hipsters’ hearts alike on Metropolis: The Chase Suite, the first part of her ongoing 7 volume concept series(back then still envisioned as having 4 parts, as seen on the cover art). It’s an ambitious EP, immaculately realized especially considering it’s a debut effort.
The March Of The Wolfmasters establishes the plot of the EP, the violent, over-the-top flamboyant hunt after a missing cyborg in a dystopian future. As such, it achieves its goal – it’s a spoken introduction first and foremost.
The first song from the fugitive’s perspective, Violet Stars Happy Hunting!, is energetic, turns up the funk, and turns the situation into an oddly fun, engaging experience. There’s not an uneventful moment in this song, blasting through the composition with the energy turned up all the way throughout. Spoken elements refer to the narrative nature of the record, but never distract from the ability of the track to also serve as pop song.
Many Moons is probably the most well-remembered song from the album, being the lead promotional track and having been declared one of Rolling Stone’s top 100 tracks of the year. It keeps up the frantic, playful nature of the prior song, but adds a heightened sense of melody, resulting in a song that may just be even more theatrical. It’s bold, electric and full of attitude, but retains a sense of pure beauty. The vocal work in particular deserves pointing out. Monáe is a vocalist capable of adjusting to any shift in the song, any mood or dynamic needed, equally impressive when she’s speaking/rapping as she is when she is delivering powerfully belted, emotive passages or essentially whispering the melody.
An interlude to transition into more low-key, reflective territories, Cybertronic Purgatory features operatic, autotuned vocals over a simple instrumental track. It’s disquieting and just a bit creepy – and strikes me as plain genius in the way it combines genres and effects. I wish this had been longer than 90 seconds.
A gorgeously orchestrated song heavily rooted in blues, jazz, swing, soul, musicals and classical alike, Sincerely, Jane. is just so very impressive. It’s a song fit to become a classic, absolutely timeless, expertly produced, intricately arranged and powerfully delivered. It’s quite sad to see that this is already the final song on the basic edition of the EP!
Metropolis: The Chase Suite is a masterpiece of an EP. There is not one dull moment on this record, it effortlessly weaves a story into some of the most interesting, memorable material to come out of the genre in a long time. And to think, this is a debut! There’s just no words for the quality of this EP.