Nearly 15 years ago, Janelle Monae made herself known to the world with her genre-hopping and iconic suit and pompadour. In her debut, Janelle makes the unique decision with her music to deliver us the sci-fi saga of Cindi Mayweather of Metropolis. With her first three albums, fans and listeners learn more about Cindi and her world. Cindi's story currently consists of five "Suites" out of seven over an EP ("Metropolis") and two albums ("The ArchAndroid" and "Electric Lady."). The most recent addition to her story was in 2013. Here's what we know so far:
Suite One, the EP "Metropolis," introduces Cindi with an announcement that she’s won the heartbreak sweepstakes. Which is to say Cindi is an android – an Alpha Platinum 9000 android number 57821, to be specific – and Cindi has fallen in love with a human, Anthony Greendown. The punishment for such a "crime" is immediate disassembly and the collection of her cyber-soul. Cindi is on the run. It would seem that she's been on the run for some time, considering the deep longing she conveys for Anthony and the android revolution she unintentionally starts as she yearns for freedom. The fact that the “heartbreak sweepstakes” exists implies that it’s not uncommon for androids to fall in love with humans, but Cindi is clearly the first android to evade the bounty hunters and Droid Patrol for so long.
The following Suites in "The ArchAndroid" and "Electric Lady" tell about Cindi's experiences and impact while on the run. She finds support in the android community and even joined a sorority-like group, the Electro Phi Betas. She takes to performing while evading the Droid Patrol and bounty hunters. Cindi sings in defiance and in frustration with the world she lives in. She misses Anthony but finds comfort and strength in the fact that they loved each other at all.
Meanwhile, Anthony Greendown searches for Cindi and sends her words of encouragement. As he searches, he wonders: could Cindi be the ArchAndroid, the bridge between androids and humans? He isn't the only one wondering. A human caller to a local radio station begins to bring it up, but the android host DJ Crash Crash cuts him off, and who could blame him when he's been taking calls from androids and humans all across Metropolis to share their support or prejudice or even a little nonsense on the topic of Cindi Mayweather.
Cindi's story can be a little difficult to follow because Cindi's story is also Janelle's story, but Janelle's story isn't always Cindi's story. Cindi represents the collective struggles marginalized groups often experience – the struggle of existing in a way that people aren't used to. Some songs, such as “Ghetto Woman” and “Dear Jane,” are very personal but don’t fit Cindi’s narrative. Even with this slight deviation, Janelle weaves them in rather seamlessly to portray her world of Metropolis.
Janelle does intend to complete Cindi's story, but the near-10-year wait has made fans a little antsy. There are two more suites left in the story and so many questions to answer! Will Cindi and Anthony ever be reunited? Is Cindi really the ArchAndroid? What would happen to Metropolis if she is? What will become of the android revolution if she isn’t? The anticipation is steadily mounting as Janelle switches gears with the 2018 album and emotion-picture “Dirty Computer” and its new companion anthology The Memory Librarian. With the similarities in themes between “Dirty Computer” and the Metropolis Suites, it’s easy to hope for Cindi to emerge victoriously, reunite with her lover, and live happily ever after.