You can have your Drake and Bun B albums. ArchAndroid is by far the best album to come out in 2010 and one of the best projects I’ve heard in years. “Cold War” is one of the gems on the LP: the song is schizophrenic, not just for the seemingly helter skelter beat, but for the way the poppy instrumental and Janelle’s vibrant delivery betray the solemn nature of her lyrics.
The song, as the name implies, is about duality; a cold war of inner strife (“being alone’s the only place to be”) that can be buried under smiles, electric guitars and up-tempo drum patterns. In the middle of the song, Monáe even yells out “Calinda,” a hat-tip to the double meanings of her music. Calinda is a Caribbean martial art that has also been mostly seen as a dance during Carnival – both frivolity and violence wrapped in one package. I’ve always known “Colinda” as the subject of old Congo Square songs from New Orleans where lyrics, shrouded in code, are used to entice women to perform a bevy of freaky acts. The ostensibly playful lyrics are used to cover up the fact that the woman is essentially objectified by the singers.
The ArchAndroid is full of coded lyrics, hidden meanings and cross-cultural influences, so you better believe Monáe had these references in mind when she yelled out “Calinda”.
The video carries on the idea of dual meanings and emotional strife. The video is a one-take, single-shot that breaks the fourth wall by having Monáe show that she is trying to cry before her tear falls. She laughs, jumps up and down and even mouths “I can’t cry” before transforming back into the performer, letting a single tear drop down her cheek. Though the audience knows it’s coming, we still can’t help but be drawn by the emotions of the last few seconds.
Beyond that, Monáe has a captivating beauty that’s impossible not to stare at. So if you want, ignore all that other stuff and just look at her face. That’s pretty awesome, too.