Tightrope (Janelle Monáe song)

Last updated

Janelle Monae - Tightrope.PNG
Single by Janelle Monáe featuring Big Boi
from the album The ArchAndroid
ReleasedFebruary 11, 2010
  • Nathaniel Irvin III
  • Charles Joseph II
  • Antwan Patton
  • Janelle Monáe Robinson
  • Nate Wonder
  • Chuck Lightning
  • Janelle Monáe
Janelle Monáe singles chronology
"Many Moons"
"Cold War"
Remix cover
Janelle Monae - Tightrope Remix.png
Cover for "Tightrope (Wondamix)" featuring B.o.B and Lupe Fiasco

"Tightrope" is a 2010 song by American singer Janelle Monáe, the first official single from The ArchAndroid .


The single premiered on February 11 on Pitchfork Media website, earning an immediate 9/10 rating and its coveted "Best New Music" tag. The companion song, "Cold War," debuted on February 12 via Monáe's official website. [1]

The official remix, titled "Tightrope (Wondamix)", features rappers B.o.B and Lupe Fiasco. [2] The solo version of the song without Big Boi is also featured in the video game Just Dance 3 . It was featured during the end credits for Happy Feet Two , in a version that interpolates some singing from one of the characters and also features a new verse from American child actor and rapper Lil' P-Nut which replace Big Boi's verse. The song also featured on the third-season finale of teen drama 90210 .


Speaking in May 2010 to UK urban writer Pete Lewis, deputy editor of Blues & Soul , Monae discussed the background to the song: "'Tightrope' is basically dealing with how in life it's important to keep your balance and not get too high or low about things during the time when you're either being praised or being criticised. Which is something that, as artists, Big Boi and I could both relate to, because there are so many peaks and dips along the journey of just being an artist on the road to success. So we both felt it was important to kinda help those everyday working people who are constantly dealing with life's obstacles, by giving them like a tutorial on how to deal with issues face-on." [3]


"Tightrope" features futuristic, space themes; however, it has also been described to feature "serious old-school entertainer bona fides". Pitchfork Media note that the tracks sped up alien backing vocals are the only thing that keep the theme of sci-fi and of the future. The song has also been compared to singer Amerie's track "1 Thing", and Monae was likened to Katharine Hepburn for her vocals on the track. Pitchfork went on to explain "But when the chorus hits, she switches up into a classic soul-singer wail, the type of immediate retro yowl that keeps Sharon Jones in fancy shoes. And after Big Boi struts on in and rhymes 'NASDAQ' with 'ass crack', she ups the ante, rhyming 'alligators' with 'rattlesnakers,' 'another flavor,' and 'Terminator.' It's just a star performance all around, and God knows we need those lately." [4]

Music video

Monae released the video on March 31, 2010. The music video was directed by director Wendy Morgan. In the music video she portrays an inpatient that possesses the power to walk through walls and later she catches the "crazy/dancing feet" with her friends. Monae talked about the video, saying, "'Tightrope' takes place at the Palace of the Dogs. A lot of the greats were admitted into this place, like Charlie Parker and Jimi Hendrix. We wanted to keep it raw and funky—just having it in an insane asylum made it that much cooler to me." [5] The video references experimental filmmaker Maya Deren's iconic 1943 film, Meshes of the Afternoon .

Live performances

Monáe performed the song on the Late Show with David Letterman on May 18, 2010, [6] The Ellen DeGeneres Show on May 26, Lopez Tonight on May 27, Last Call with Carson Daly on May 28, [7] and on Dancing with the Stars on September 28. [8] In the UK, the song was the "Single of the Week" on iTunes (i.e. released as a free download) for 7 days (beginning July 13, 2010) to promote the release of her album, The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III) . [9] On June 25, 2011, she performed "Tightrope" along with other songs at Glastonbury Festival.


Rolling Stone named "Tightrope" the eighth best single of 2010 in its year-end list. [10] SPIN ranked the song at #9 on its The 20 Best Songs of 2010, [11] and PopMatters placed it at #2 on its The 60 Best Songs of 2010. [12] Pitchfork ranked it number 10 on its year-end list. [13] Spinner named it #38 on its best songs of 2010. [14] NME named the music video for "Tightrope" #1 on its 50 Best Music Video of 2010. [15] In January 2011, The Village Voice 's Pazz & Jop annual critics' poll ranked "Tightrope" at number 2 to find the best music of 2010, behind CeeLo Green's "Forget You".

The song was also featured in the Chevrolet Cruze Canadian commercial to promote the new vehicle and in the American retail chain Kmart ”Back to School commercial in 2011. It was featured on the unranked list of TIME'S ALL-TIME 100 Songs. [16]

Track listings

Solo version single [17]

Wondamix Single [18]

Digital Remix EP [19]

Chart history

Chart (2010)Peak
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders) [20] 20
South Korea (Gaon International) [21] 61

Cover versions

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