Wednesday, August 5, 2015

More Music to Move To: Janelle Monae's "Tightrope"

National Public Radio reported last year on the “Anatomy of a Dance Hit,” explaining a Danish study’s findings that “danceable grooves have just the right amount of gaps or breaks in the beats,” inviting first our brains, and then our bodies, to supply these missing links in the pulse. A pop favorite that has stood (at least my) test of time nails this “moveable music” criterion: Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope,” one of a series of programmatic songs on her 2010 science-fiction-themed album The ArchAndroid

The musical style blends Motown, hip-hop, and an unclassifiable but perfectly melded complement of driving percussion—most prominently, congas, kick-drum, and a drum-machine bass kick—acoustic instruments, and brass ensemble. Monae is among the most charismatically expressive singers I know of: aggressive, plaintive, brash, sweet—and always energetic.

And most to the point, the song is riddled with gaps. Holes in its beat that effectively grab you by the wrist and drag you to the dance floor. From “Tightrope’s” opening bars, I defy you to sit still. Trust me—it is much easier (and so much nicer) to give way to your tapping feet and wiggling hips.

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