Arch Androids rejoiced last Sunday when the mother of space age afro-punk and sci-fi hip-hop took the stage. That would be none other than Janelle Monae. Monae, 28, of “Q.U.E.E.N” fame, is one of those rare talents that comes along once in a generation—a marvelous singing voice matched with a mighty vision (think the female Andre 3000), fancy footwork (James Brown style), her signature black / white suits (her “uniform”), her own alter-ego (Cindi Mayweather) and an electrifying, vibrant spirit. When it comes to the pantheon of rock stars, Janelle fits nicely in the lane with Prince and other innovative provocateurs.
Monae wowed a packed audience last Sunday at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. In addition to cooking the crowd with hits from The ArchAndroid (“Cold War”) and her latest album, The Electric Lady, (“Primetime”), she brought out a special surprise guest: Stevie Wonder! Together they performed James Brown’s “I Feel Good,” and she chanted to the crowd “Go, Stevie, Go!” as he ad-libbed on the piano.
Still on the James Brown vibe, Janelle wore her own signature black cape in a performance of her hit song, “Tightrope”. She even rocked Michael Jackson’s “I Want You Back/ABC” – performing some of The Jackson Five’s signature dance moves to the crowd’s delight!
For those trying to catch their breath, where on earth did this psychedelic soul come from? Raised in poverty in Kansas City, Janelle Monae created her own romantic musical world to escape the madness around her. After landing in Atlanta, she met Big Boi of OutKast, and an arch android was born. As savvy a business woman as she is a dynamic performer, Janelle is signed to her own label Wondaland Art Society, in collaboration with P.Diddy’s Bad Boy and Atlantic labels. She has released three conceptual EPs on her own terms: The Electric Lady, Metropolis: Suite 1 (The Chase), and The ArchAndroid (which went on to nab a Grammy nom for Best Contemporary R&B Album). Janelle has been tipping on her “Tightrope” ever since. She became a CoverGirl brand ambassador and is the proud owner of her own day, October 16, named after her by the city of Boston in recognition of her artistry and social leadership.
As James Brown would say, girl, “Get on UP!”
(Photo: Bill Ebbesen/Wikimedia/Creative Commons license)