Janelle Monáe Walks "Tightrope" to the Grammys

Published February 9, 2011

The Grammy Awards always acknowledges a mix of commercial juggernauts and artistically inclined performers. For every Justin Bieber, there’s a Janelle Monáe. The eccentric singer’s debut, “The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III)” debuted at No. 17 on the charts, selling 21,000 copies in its first week and 135,000 to date, according to Nielsen’s SoundScan. Still, it became a staple on most best-album year-end lists in 2010 and is now nominated for Best Contemporary R&B Album.

The album’s second single, “Tightrope,” featuring Big Boi, is also nominated for Best Urban/Alternative Performance despite making minimal noise on the charts. To let Janelle tell it, her objective wasn’t to top the charts.

“I wanted to create an anthem for those working-class, thriving individuals who feel at times oppressed or depressed—a self-motivational song,” Janelle told BET.com. “It’s a song that deals with balance. When things don’t work in your favor, don’t get too low and don’t get too high off praise and accolades. Just stay right in the middle; I think that was just something we strive for each and every day single day.”

Monáe’s nominations also translated into two of three nods for Big Boi. In addition to being nominated for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for his own “Shutterbug,” Daddy Fat Sacks stands to win a Grammy as an executive producer on “The ArchAndroid” and for his guest appearance on “Tightrope.” Janelle says Big was the ideal person to help her bring her point across.

“I think Big Boi has been in the music industry for a very long time, and he’s seen and been through many highs and experienced many lows,” she explained. “He knows a lot about the importance of balance, and I thought he was the most appropriate person for the song because of his expertise. I wanted to get his perspective from somebody that I know firsthand has had to definitely stay balanced to remain as consistent as he has.”

A standout live performer, Janelle’s also slated to take the stage Sunday night. What song will she perform? Will unexpected guests pop up during her set? You’ll have to wait to find out.

“I will say the song that I’ll be performing really deals with artists overall and the things that we stand for and how we’ll have to really believe in them,” she revealed.  “You just have to be in tune with who you are or you’ll begin to waver and get lost in this world.”

Tune in to see what song Janelle performs when the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards air this Sunday, February 13, at 8 pm EST.

Written by Carl Chery, BET.com Staff

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