Audiostraddle Record Club: Go Get Janelle Monae’s ArchAndroid, Start Listening!

When I first pitched the idea of a record club, I honestly didn’t expect such a good response. But there it was, there you were with your enthusiasm and excitement and cracking suggestions for albums to be discussed – including but not limited to new releases by Holly Miranda, Kaki King, Robyn, M.I.A and even La Roux, who already ignited some interesting debate. Some of these records will hopefully be discussed in the future, like maybe next month.

Some of you were open to my suggestion that we slap on some body glitter and discuss Ke$ha / Animal, but don’t fear – while leading an intellectual discussion about this artist has been a long-time dream of mine, the majority has spoken and so we’re not going to go there, at least not today. Nor will I ask you to talk about the soundtrack to certain abstinence-lovin’ movie franchise even though I really do believe in its music.

So, the first record we’re going to discuss is The ArchAndroid by Janelle Monáe.

BUT HANG ON – DON’T SHARE YOUR FEELINGS YET! Read this post right down to the end!

Janelle Monáe is a Kansas-born, 24-year old, androgynous, tuxedo-sporting, queer-supporting, soul-oriented, alternative singer/songwriter, dancer & performer who recently took out the #1 position in our list of the Top 10 People Who Can Do No Wrong. She really can’t. If you haven’t already, you really should read this article written by our editor-in-chief Riese on why Janelle Monáe is the future.

One thing that did ring clear was that a lot of you are interested in broadening your musical horizons, listening to some albums that you might not otherwise have picked up. That’s why I chose Janelle, an artist who’s received widespread praise from music critics but as Jezebel has pointed out, flies under the radar and sadly misses out on the commercial attention enjoyed by her headline-grabbing peers.

Things to consider (in the near-future!):

The ArchAndroid is an epic, 70-minute long record featuring 18 tracks, which is a lot for anyone to process, including me. So rather than break this down track-by-track, I’m just going to throw out some broader questions that you may or may not want to consider while listening to the album.

* The ArchAndroid pulls in elements of Afrofuturism and science fiction to tell a story about a messianic android. But if you weren’t told there was a concept, would you be aware of it?

* The album crosses genres, it’s a cyberish mash-up of pop, soul, funk, R&B, hip hop, rock and everything else. Has such an epic exercise in genre-bending resulted in a truly unique sound, or a total train wreck? Is the creativity too ambitious, or has it hit the mark?

* Janelle has been called a visionary, a truly innovative artist who’s breaking boundaries with her musical style and producing sounds that haven’t been made before. Would you agree?

* “Tightrope” feat. Big Boi is the album’s first and only single (as yet). Do you think it is the strongest track? What are the stand out tracks for you?

* Is this album and artist too outlandish for commercial success? Is there such a thing? Or maybe you have another theory for her lack of buzz in the mainstream market.

* She looks really hot in a tuxedo, right?

What happens next:

Obvs you need to get the album. If you don’t already own The ArchAndroid, you can pick it up online via the links below, or at your local independently owned record store, if you have one! Or you could look up the track listing and listen to the songs on Myspace. Just pleasepleaseplease don’t illegally download it.

Also, if you’re not going to support an independent record store and rather intend to support “the man,” please consider doing so using the links below, because if you do, you’ll be sending a share of the profits to Autostraddle. It’s only a small slice but with hosting fees & operating costs like ours, every cent helps.

Amazon – audio cd – $9.99: The ArchAndroid, Audio CD
Amazon -mp3 download – $7.99: The ArchAndroid, mp3 version
itunes download – $9.99: The ArchAndroid – Janelle Monáe
itunes deluxe download – $12.99: The ArchAndroid (Deluxe) – Janelle Monáe

And if you already own the record, don’t share your feelings just yet. If you have questions you want to discuss later on, let me know, but don’t you dare try to answer them or give away the ending about the monster at the end of this book! We’re going to meet back here in two weeks, or thereabouts, and process this album then. I’ll also announce which album we’ll be discussing next time so we can streamline this bitch.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

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Founding member. Former writer. Still loves Autostraddle with her whole heart.

Crystal has written 320 articles for us.


  1. Just when I thought I couldn’t love autostraddle more… best idea ever. I’m glad Janelle got picked!

  2. i’m going to participate! i’m going to buy an album that’s not a musical soundtrack, adam lambert, lady gaga or classical/opera for the first time in probs two years! go team!

  3. Because Autostraddle can do no wrong I took a leap of faith and just bought the album on itunes. Yayyy for new music!

  4. I have it and I’m ready…

    Oh, and I’m totally up for a body glitter party/discussing Kesha. Cause I’m looking like a pimp in my gold TransAm and I’ve got a water bottle full of whiskey in my handbag.

    • I also want to suggest that we have a listening party for the new Samantha Crain album “You (Understood)”. I know you did a spotlight during Bonnaroo (I saw her two days later in Toronto, opening for First Aid Kit) but girl needs more exposure. She’s super cute, writes incredible songs and rocks harder then Carrie Brownstein. Let’s do it!!

  5. such a fantastic album. completely agree that she transcends a lot of genres, and im obsessed with her first lp, metropolis: the chase suite (check out sincerely, Jane – it’s absolutely stellar). she’s got a strong voice, and i love her dedication to concept albums. when i first heard her, i compared her to VV Brown, but id say VV is a little more gritty rock and roll, while Janelle tends towards more soul / funk. i love her collaborations, too – i mean, Big Boi and Of Montreal on the same album? so so good.

    liking this record club deal – La Roux’s album is fantastic. i remember seeing her last year at a little venue near the Castro. it was one of her first shows in the US, and i remember rocking out to “Fascination” and being so excited for her to make it big Stateside! Also psyched about Robyn’s new one – if body talk pts 2 and 3 are anywhere as good as the first four tracks n pt 1, theyll be gold!

  6. After checking her out on youtube I was so ready to buy this album but it turns out that its not released over here yet. Out next week in the uk. Looking forward to it though!

    • Whoops, I should’ve checked that it’s available everywhere. We’re going to pick this back up in two weeks, so hopefully you’ll have enough time!

  7. Hurray! Yesterday I voted with my dollars and picked up a copy of The ArchAndroid at my local record shop and look how well it worked out!

    I know I will have a lot of thoughts and feelings to express after giving it a few more listens, but right now my number one feeling is that I want to hug/marry her every time I hear the part of Tightrope where she raps about “alligators and little rattlesnakers.”

  8. wow lmao i literally just bought an album because Autostraddle asked me to

    meanwhile I’m listening to Alicia Keys & Baby Cham “Ghetto Story” remix

    braaa braa braaa!!

    ok enough….time to write and listen to this ArchAndroid bizz…which is honestly a little outside of my usual taste but i’m down and will report my thoughts

  9. I think the reason for her success is her look. Let’s face it, mainstream media judges by appearance,and even though she’s an amazing singer with a beautiful voice, she has a unique look that draws people in solely from it.

  10. Redo of last post… Maybe her look and big splash of genres is what makes he not very successful.

  11. I think neon gumbo is the most powerful one, possibly from the conotations of the backwards song, or, most likely, the pretty effects I don’t know how to do. Tightrope, in my opinion, was just to cater to the mainstream and boost record sales.

    • You have some interesting thoughts here. Let’s not talk about it yet though – I’m going to give everyone a chance to listen to the record and we’ll reconvene to talk about it in two weeks.

  12. Been listening to this album for a month or so now and am so glad it was chosen for the inaugural edition of Audiostraddle. It’s a fantastic and really diverse listen.

    I was introduced to Janelle Monae via the queer blogosphere, which, in retrospect, doesn’t surprise me all that much. It was the queer scene that first really embraced Lady Gaga, for instance, and it’s probably no coincidence that people are already drawing parallels between the two.

    Thing is, JM is definitely her own creature. Whereas I definitely think Gaga has opened the door for future mainstream success by more avant-garde artists like JM, her act is very different.

    What I love about JM is her dedication to androgyny and, frankly, songs that make you wanna bust a serious move. And none of it feels manufactured or put on – it feels very much like JM doing what’s natural. And that sense of realness can go a long way toward making an artist more appealing.

    Crystal, you asked, “Is this album and artist too outlandish for commercial success? Is there such a thing?”

    Like I said before, I think Gaga’s success has the potential to really open up the mainstream to far more in the way queer sensibility and underground performance art – but that’s more in terms of image and not music. And it may, unfortunately, not yet extend to women of color. Which is some serious bull, but we’d be pretty ignorant to claim that women of color don’t have a mountain of extra stereotypes and stigmas working against them that blonde, white women like Gaga just don’t.

    So an (albeit beautiful) androgynous black woman who wears tuxedos, dances like James Brown, and sings like her very soul is on fire? Still sadly more difficult for the mainstream to comfortably digest.

    I hope JM is able to break through all of that – and if anyone should, it’s absolutely her – and I hope the general public surprises me. But regardless of the end result, the fact that all the critical and underground praise in the world hasn’t broken her yet points to those terrible barriers still being in place.

    My two cents, anyway.

    And yes, she looks smokin’ hot in those tuxedos.

  13. Aaaand I just read the end of the post. Apologies for being overenthusiastic as well. :P

    • It’s all good – when we talk about this in a few weeks make sure you cut & paste these feelings in! If these comments are indicative of the conversations to come then I’m excited.

  14. i almost started commenting about my feelings as i just got this album, but then i BARELY noticed that little bold order, “don’t share your feelings just yet.” rah! maybe put that up top? know how autostraddlers start commenting before finishing the article? yah, that happens.

  15. I haven’t bought a full album in years, but I actually picked this up last week! Mostly because I’m obsessed with “Tightrope” and had heard good things about the album. Also, the tuxedo thing. I haven’t gotten a good chance to really listen to it yet, but I guess I’ll start!

  16. Have been listening to this for awhile. Not a big fan of “concept” albums and most fall a little flat but this one was pretty good. And she’s hot so that can’t hurt matters. This was a great pop album. Format is a little long for my taste though.

    LOVES: “Tightrope” w/Big Boi (loved him since “Ms. Jackson”), “Wondaland” (great pop song), Nate Wonder/Chuck Lightning.

    DISLOVE: Long winded pre-chorus/choruses that could be cut down/not repeated forty times. “Oh Maker” (feels forced).

    And she is hot. Like really hot but I would never let that change my mind about a musician.

  17. Don’t buy it from Topspin, whatever you do. I did that and it turned into an epic adventure in FAIL.

  18. Yuss, I’ve been waiting for this album for so long. I’m in the UK, so 12th July is the date for release here. Will be listening to it over and over no doubt (though nothing can beat the amount times I’ve listened to T&S. It’s unhealthy.)

    I *love* the idea of a record club – I’ve been really wanting to get into new music, so YAY to this!
    (Also, I really want to get back into reading more than I Do – anyone have an online book club I can tag along to?)

  19. Yay! I just stumbled onto this website last week, and now visit daily.
    My friends always tell me I need to “open up” to new music. What can I say… I’m a soul/funk girl and I do not like to deviate. But I did buy this album a few weeks ago in an effort to slowly start the process, and I LOVE it. ~Looking forward to the discussion and future suggestions. Thanks!

  20. Janelle Monae! Great choice, when I used to work at American Eagle she was on the video soundtrack and I could not for the life of me remember her name just her lovely hair! So thank you for rekindling amazing memories of folding jeans and giving me back some great music.

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