Atlanta's R&B star Janelle Monae debuted her May 18 release, The ArchAndroid, with an exclusive listening party in New York Thursday night, and like her music, the event was loads of tripped-out fun -- Diddy even patched in via webcam from his Paris hotel suite to join the party.
On the strength of a solid '09 -- "Many Moons," the single off her EP Metropolis Suite I of IV: The Chase, landed a Grammy nod for Best Urban Performance -- Monae signed with Diddy's Bad Boy Records, and if anyone knows how to throw a party tailored to every nuance of his 25-year-old singer's oddball taste, it's Diddy.
Actors dressed in black undertaker cloaks and white beaked masks circled an open bar where SNL's Kenan Thompson and members of the Roots drank; attendees were escorted two at a time into a small basement theatre, where popcorn was served; and special programs describing "The ArchAndroid Experience" were distributed, complete with this instruction: "After you've heard The ArchAndroid, please don't tell your friends its shocking secrets."
"Janelle is my most artistic signing yet," Diddy said, his image projected on the theatre's screen. "She's not afraid to dream. I'm known for my hype, but her music speaks for itself." His accolades were then interrupted by a knock at his door. "Oh, sorry. It's room service!" Sigh.
"I want dancing," Monae then instructed. "Get up, act a fool!"
The deep beats of "Suite II Overture" then blasted to a film accompiment -- videos of pyramids, boxing matches, trains, and taxis, plus acid-drenched pics of Monae (see above), the clip's co-director -- and in seconds the place was jumpin'.
Members of Monae's Wondaland Arts Society crew flailed, shook, mash-potatoed, and straight freaked in the aisles. And for good reason: The ArchAndroid is out-of-this-world funky, from the turbocharged R&B single "Tightrope" to the free-floating jazz guitar and psych bass grooves of "Mushrooms and Roses."
Kenan Thompson, standing outside the venue after the event, wearing sunglasses in the dark, was impressed. "I loved it," he said. "It's high energy... it's wild.