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"Cold War" is a song recorded by American singer-songwriter Janelle Monáe for her debut studio album The ArchAndroid (2010). The song was written and produced by Monáe, Nathaniel Irvin III, and Charles Joseph II. It was released on February 12, 2010 on Monáe's website, one day after the release of The ArchAndroid's first single, "Tightrope". "Cold War" was produced as a fast-paced new wave and Afro-funk track with a futuristic feel. Its drum pattern has received several comparison to that of OutKast's 2000 single "B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)". Music critics acclaimed the song as one of the best tracks from The ArchAndroid. The accompanying music video was directed and shot by Wendy Morgan at a sanitarium. It features Monáe emoting throughout the video and has been praised by critics as a unique piece of work.

"Cold War"
Janelle Monáe – Cold War.jpg
Single by Janelle Monáe
from the album The ArchAndroid
ReleasedFebruary 12, 2010
FormatDigital download
  • Nathaniel Irvin III
  • Charles Joseph II
  • Janelle Monáe Robinson
  • Nate Wonder
  • Chuck Lightning
  • Janelle Monáe
Janelle Monáe singles chronology
"Cold War"
"We Are Young"
Audio sample
Music video
"Cold War" on YouTube


"Cold War" was co-written and co-produced by Robinson with Nathaniel Irvin III and Charles Joseph II, credited under their production names Janelle Monáe, Nate Wonder, and Chuck Lightning.[1] The song was recorded by Control Z and Roman GianArthur at Wonderland Studios in Atlanta, Georgia; it was mastered by Larry Anthony at CO5 Mastering, also in Atlanta.[1] Irvin and Phil Tan edited "Cold War" at Wonderland Studios and Soapbox Studios, respectively.[1] Robinson enlisted several musicians to create the song's overall sound.[1] Irvin provided most of the instrumentation for the song, including the Mellotron, electric guitar, organs, and percussion.[1] Backing vocals for the song were recorded by Robinson and Irvin.[1] Robinson enlisted the Wonderland Orchestra to play the revolutionary strings. Kellindo Parker performs on guitar, lead guitar, guitar (rhythm), and soloist.[1] Grace Shim performed on the cello while Alexander Page provided the violin and viola; Irvin head the string arrangement. YoungPete Alexander performs on the drums.[1]

Music and lyricsEdit

"Cold War" is a futuristic sounding new wave and Afro-funk song.[2][3] The song carries an uptempo, anthemic sound that is aided by the frantic, sprinting beats and a stinging guitar solo.[4][5][6] According to Sputnikmusic's Nick Butler, the song's drum track bear a similarity to those used in OutKast's 2000 single "B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)".[7][8] Monae's vocals on the song have received several comparisons to those of American R&B singer Beyoncé.[9] David D. of The Smoking Section found the lyrics to be about duality, "a cold war of inner strife ... that can be buried under smiles, electric guitars and up-tempo drum patterns."[10]

Release and receptionEdit

Upon its release, the song received general acclaim from critics. "Cold War" was released to Monáe's website on February 12, 2010 and later to other digital retailers on February 23, 2010.[11] Dan Nishimoto of Prefix Magazine offered praise to "Cold War" for "replacing the memory of "Violet Stars Happy Hunting!" with big hooks, bigger smiles ("All the tribes come and the mighty will crumble/ We must brave this night") and a sugar-fueled beat."[12] Matthew Cole of Slant Magazine lauded Monáe's vocals on the track, commenting "that would make Beyoncé jealous."[13] Several music critics, such as PopMatters's Quentin B. Huff, NOW's Jason Keller and Allmusic's Andy Kellman, labelled "Cold War" as the top track on The ArchAndroid.[4][14][15] Joe Rivers of No Ripcord described the song as genuinely thrilling.[8] According to Sputnikmusic's Nick Butler, several songs from The ArchAndroid, including "Cold War" get away with "attempting something that simply should not work, only for her to pull it off."[7] Lorne Thompson of The Digital Fix named "Cold War", along with "Tightrope" and "Sir Greendown", as the album's standout songs.[16]

Music videoEdit

I remember crying during ‘Cold War’ [on the] first take,” she said. “I didn’t know how that happened but it just did. I was very moved by that. It was really a special moment; then everybody else started to cry.” She further elaborated, "[The video] deals with a psychosis—you’re in my mind and you get a chance to understand Metropolis, where it all stemmed [from] and my thoughts. It’s very psychedelic and trippy."

— Janelle Monáe on the concept of the video.[17]

The music video for "Cold War" was released to Vevo on August 5, 2010. It was directed by Wendy Morgan and shot at the black box auditorium in The Palace of the Dogs sanitarium. The video, which Monáe described as an "emotion picture", features Monáe against a black wall emoting and reacting as the song progresses. During the video, Monáe grimaces, smiles, breaks down, and eventually sheds a tear. Monae described the tears as "spontaneous and triggered a chain reaction."[17] The video received rave reviews by several music critics. Katie Hasty of HitFix called the video "fascinating little artifact of time".[18] Larry Fitzmaurice of Pitchfork Media stated that it was "worth a watch".[19] Robbie Daw of Idolator stated that "Janelle reaffirms the fact that she’s one of the more unique, if not daring, artists out there at the moment."[20]


There is one remix of the song titled "Cold War (Wondamix)". Part of this remix can be heard at the beginning of the "Tightrope" music video.

Live performancesEdit

Monae performed a shortened version of the song on February 13, 2011 at the 53rd Grammy Awards, as part of a three-song medley, with B.o.B and Bruno Mars.

Credits and personnelEdit

Credits adapted from the liner notes of The ArchAndroid, Wondaland Arts Society, in association with Bad Boy Records.[1]

Chart historyEdit

Chart (2010) Peak
Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia)[21] 36
Brazil (ABPD)[22] 20


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i The ArchAndroid (inlay cover). Janelle Monáe. Wondaland Arts Society, Bad Boy Records. 2010.CS1 maint: others (link)
  2. ^ Parales, Jon (May 20, 2010). "Playlist – Vintage Rock and Midlife Heartaches". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
  3. ^ Power, Ed (July 29, 2010). "The Archandroid". Hot Press. Hot Press. Archived from the original on January 28, 2017. Retrieved June 2, 2013.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  4. ^ a b Huff, Quentin B. (May 21, 2010). "Janelle Monae: The ArchAndroid". PopMatters. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
  5. ^ Purdum, Clayton (June 3, 2010). "Janelle Monae: The ArchAndroid". CokeMachineGlow. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
  6. ^ Davis, Hays (August 30, 2010). "Janelle Monae: The ArchAndroid (Bad Boy/Wonderland Arts/Atlantic)". Under the Radar. Under the Radar Magazine. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
  7. ^ a b Butler, Nick (May 17, 2010). "Review: Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid (Suite II and III of IV)". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
  8. ^ a b Rivers, Joe (July 7, 2010). "Janelle Monae: The ArchAndroid: Suites II and III". No Ripcord. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
  9. ^ Koski, Genevieve (May 25, 2010). "Janelle Monae: The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III)". The A.V. Club. Onion Inc. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
  10. ^ D., David (August 6, 2010). "Janelle Monáe – "Cold War" Video". The Smoking Section. The Smoking Section, LLC. Retrieved August 29, 2013.
  11. ^ "Janelle Monae's Debut Album, "The ArchAndroid", Due in May; First Single, "Tightrope (Feat. Big Boi)", to Arrive via". Hip Hop Press. February 11, 2010. Archived from the original on February 15, 2010. Retrieved August 29, 2013.
  12. ^ Nishimoto, Dan (May 21, 2010). "Album Review: Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid". Prefix Magazine. Prefix. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
  13. ^ Cole, Matthew (May 18, 2010). "Janelle Monae: The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III of IV)". Slant Magazine. Slant Magazine. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
  14. ^ Keller, Jason (May 27, 2010). "Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III of IV)". NOW. NOW. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
  15. ^ Kellman, Andy. "The ArchAndroid: Janelle Monae". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
  16. ^ Thomson, Lorne (June 30, 2010). "Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid". The Digital Fix. Poisonous Monkey Limited. Retrieved June 3, 2013.
  17. ^ a b "Video: Janelle Monáe – 'Cold War'". Rap Up. August 5, 2010. Retrieved August 29, 2013.
  18. ^ Hasty, Katie (August 5, 2010). "Janelle Monae gets up close and personal in captivating 'Cold War' music video". HitFix. Retrieved August 29, 2013.
  19. ^ Fitzmaurice, Larry (August 5, 2010). "Video: Janelle Monáe: "Cold War"". Pitchfork Media. Pitchfork Media Inc. Retrieved August 29, 2013.
  20. ^ Daw, Robbie (August 5, 2010). "Janelle Monae Breaks Down In Tears In Her "Cold War" Video". Idolator. SpinMedia. Retrieved August 29, 2013.
  21. ^ "Janelle Monáe – Cold War on Ultratip chart". Retrieved April 5, 2011.
  22. ^ "Brazil" (PDF). ABPD. October 6, 2001. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 8, 2016. Retrieved April 1, 2014.