GRAMMY® - Summer 2011 - (Page 43)
“I wanted to give robots an equal opportunity.”
hearing you live and on record, it seems like your music is more about performing than programming. Is that human element something we have to be careful not to lose as we become more dependent on technology? Absolutely. I think it’s a balance. There was a time when I did add programmed background vocals. I wanted to give robots an equal opportunity. And there are sounds on the album which you can’t get on keyboards and you can’t really play live. Do you think Jay-Z was right about the “Death Of Auto-Tune”? Will it still be around in a decade? [Laughs] I don’t know. Listen, I don’t really have anything negative against Auto-Tune. I don’t necessarily need it, because I’m a singer and I don’t particularly need any help to correct my notes. I just hope people can make soulful, creative music and just do what’s honest to them. And if they’re doing it because they love Auto-Tune, then so be it. In your “Tightrope” video, the cloaked, mirror-faced figures reminded me of Sun Ra’s Space Is The Place film, in which there was a similarly costumed figure. And of course, he was really big on using science-fiction tropes as a way of addressing anxieties about “otherness,” and also as a way to celebrate it. Was his work an influence on you? Yeah, absolutely. Those mirror-like figures, they have definitely traveled from Sun Ra’s year to our year. There are several historic figures [who] I think are transcendent, and their spirit lives on in other people — his work and the work of George Clinton, and artists and writers like Octavia Butler who speak about science fiction and black people as being the “other.” I can definitely relate to that, and I do incorporate it so that others will be able to understand that they are not alone in feeling like they’re the “other.” how long do you think it’ll be before an artificial-intelligence program starts writing hit singles? I think soon, because the technology keeps growing exponentially. I think within the next 10 years we’ll be reaching the Singularity, in which we won’t be able to differentiate whether we’re speaking to an actual android or a human. But that doesn’t make me afraid. It’s just what you do with it. I think we can do some brilliant things together, if we can come together and work together and respect each other. From an industry perspective, do you think the music business in 2020 will look anything like it does today? No, I think the artists are going to start to do things for themselves. Sometimes major corporations can be very out of touch and they just start pushing music on us, and we don’t like that. And that causes a revolution in the underground for other artists who oppose this type of packaged McDonald’s approach. I have nothing against McDonald’s, I eat Big Macs — well no, not Big Macs, but Chicken McNuggets. But sometimes we [need] opposition, so that we have something to push off and we can do something great.
Photo: Michael Caulfield/WireImage.com
THOuGHT YOu’d NEvER ASk
Janelle Monáe envisions music on the eve of the technological Singularity
Interview by Bill Forman
into the future than Janelle Monáe. In both her music and her persona, the 25-year-old soul/pop sensation embodies the transhuman expressionism of Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis, the soulful showmanship of Prince and James Brown, the post-operatic inclinations of Kate Bush, and an android androgyny all her own. With its futuristic singles “Tightrope” and “Cold War,” Monáe’s 2010 GRAMMY-nominated debut album The ArchAndroid chronicles the adventures of her alter ego Cindi Mayweather, a fugitive android playing a messianic role in a dystopian future. And much like Sun Ra, the late jazz visionary who insisted he came from Saturn, Monáe’s public image is so tied up in her science-fiction metaphors that it’s difficult to tell where Monáe ends and Mayweather begins.
It’s difficult to imagine an artist better suited to peer
43 GRAMMY | SUMMER 11
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of GRAMMY® - Summer 2011
GRAMMY® - Summer 2011
From The President/CEO
From The Chair
The GRAMMY Quiz: Will You Still Be A Music Fan In 2020?
Stars On The Rise
The Recording Academy Yesterday And Tomorrow
On With The Show
Seeing Through The Cloud
National Academy News
Advocacy In Action
Thought You’d Never Ask: Janelle Monáe
GRAMMY® - Summer 2011