While everybody else is busy fawning over Lady Gaga for her so-called “innovation” and “creativity” and “provocative image”, I’d like to propose a more deserving artist as the one who should (and will) change the pop scene as we know it: Janelle Monáe.
She’s cultivated a specific image. She has a concept: her past two albums have laid out a whole story about a brand new and rather dysfunctional world. Her music is both accessible and edgy, incorporating elements of classical music, jazz, pop, rock, hip-hop, and soul — to name just a few of the easily discernible genres. And Christ, can she sing.
Like Gaga, Monáe is doing something different. Unlike Gaga, Monáe doesn’t specifically try to incite controversy (Gaga used to do it naturally; now she’s trying far too hard), and she has come up with something uniquely her own, whereas Lady Gaga borrows heavily from David Bowie and Marilyn Manson (if you don’t believe me, search Manson’s Omega period — think Mechanical Animals — and compare and contrast with some of her fashion choices and music videos), and more recently, Madonna. Granted, Monáe also borrows heavily from Michael Jackson in terms of style — but she doesn’t claim his influence as her own doing. Lady Gaga now believes she is an artiste, but her juvenile, poorly written lyrics, lack of depth, and her deliberately over-the-top antics (think the “Born This Way” music video and Grammy performance, which she views as avant-garde, but which is really just a cry for attention because there’s hardly any artistic merit or deeper meaning in any of her music) belie this claim.
Janelle Monáe is different: although she portrays a certain “character” and presents herself in a specific light to the general public as all pop artists do, she is somehow more human and more honest. And, frankly, she’s more talented.
These are two of my favourite songs by her: