Friday, May 27th, 2011

Big Boi ft. Janelle Monáe – Be Still

I will get the wagon back on the road…


Anthony Easton: I was talking to a friend just before Easter vigil was starting, and we were mentioning about how storytelling as a legitimate sermon method was under rated and under used. I feel the same way about hip-hop, and I think Big Boi and Monáe are genuinely great story tellers –her verses here, deft, come from a hip-hop tradition, but would be impossible without Dinah Washington or Dionne Warwick. Having both of those work makes an object of prismatic beauty.

Alfred Soto: The percussion, whistling New Romantic synth, the intro question about teabagging — all this and Janelle Monáe, an android and an arch one too. So many ideas yet I hear no attempt to integrate them, which is probably the point.

Jer Fairall: A Sir Lucious Left Foot filler track becomes a throwaway single that sounds like an ArchAndroid filler track on account of being nearly all Janelle hook and almost no Big Boi. Which would be fine were the hook itself not so wishy washy.

John Seroff: Bookended by a pair of truly inane skits, “Be Still” is the prettiest, gentlest cut off my favorite album of 2010. Big Boi is relegated to a supporting role, ceding the spotlight to Monáe. She certainly knows what to do with it; this sort of funkadelic torch song comes off perfectly natural and unforced, especially in comparison to much of the overstuffed, one woman Broadway show that was Archandroid. Janelle and Fat Stacks really thrive in each others company and even if “Be Still” never quite reaches the incandescent heights of “Tightrope”, it’s still as good as anything these two have done, either together or separately. That’s saying a lot.

Chuck Eddy: I hate the punchline-less teabag/teatime joke-or-whatever at the start, have no real use for the crack-bust skit at the end. And I pretty much can’t stand Janelle’s show-tune/supper-club/Judy Garland side, which zeroed out the intermittent funky band parts when I saw her live during SXSW; that she’s got basically just an average voice, and that there’s nothing especially interesting about her conceptualizing besides being, you know, conceptual, didn’t help. Anyway, that last complaint admittedly has nothing to do with this song. I have nothing to say about what Big Boi does — he does what he does, and it sounds okay, usually. But there’s nothing in it I care about, and sounds to me like he’s spinning his wheels.

Asher Steinberg: Who ever would have thought that Big Boi’s flow would sound dated one day? It does here; for a moment I felt transported to 2003. Thanks to Janelle, it was only for a moment though, as she drones on for the rest of the song about the virtues of a loveless life (or adolescence, at least), dully channeling someone or another who she’s not.

Jonathan Bogart: In which Janelle Monáe contrives to sound oddly like Stereolab, and not just because of the buzzing synths she’s surrounded by. I adore the affectlessness of her singing here, not least because it cuts out her worst musical-theater tendencies and gives Big Boi’s nimble flow a smooth flat surface against which to bounce.

Ian Mathers: Given the pedigree, I suppose this is slightly underwhelming, but another way to think about “Be Still” is just that it’s solid, satisfying. It’s pleasures aren’t as pyrotechnic as the best stuff from either participant, but they’re just as durable.

5 Responses to “Big Boi ft. Janelle Monáe – Be Still”

  1. divisive!

  2. Janelle told a story here? Would that be the part where she sang:

    I love bein in love
    Then you let me down, turned my heart around
    Givin up on love, makes my ocean drown
    You lived in my heart

    That’s a story?

  3. Have a different definition?

  4. I still think this is meh, but having just seen Janelle over the weekend and consequently falling in love with her all over again, I really wish I could be hearing this through some of it’s bigger supporters’ ears.

  5. Well, I suppose the statement “you let me down, turned my heart around… you lived in my heart” is a very truncated story of sorts, but it certainly doesn’t make her a great story-teller, not within the context of this song anyway. I tend to associate “great story-telling” with detail, some semblance of narrative, etc.