The Next Big Thing – Janelle Monae

Janelle Monae belts it while some spooky masqueraders lurk

Janelle Monae is hands down the breakout artist of 2010.  I believe she’s been around making music before this year, but this is the year she released The ArchAndroid which included the “Hey Ya” of 2010: “Tightrope” (which in keeping with the Outkast comparison, features Big Boi).  First, I saw the music video for Tightrope featuring her super-fluid, James Brown by way of MJ moves.  This video also established her fashion template, composed almost entirely of equestrian and formal-wear.  Next, came her stellar performance on David Letterman – including a James Brown cape homage and a worshipful P. Diddy anointing her – that proved that the voice and those moves could be reproduced at will in a live setting.  Then came the album itself which is all over the map stylistically (in a good way, blending R&B, future-funk, classical overtures, pop, rock, and more) and is unified by a vague theme of futurism and robots.  She claims to be an android and it’s hard to tell if she’s serious, much the same way Lil Wayne claims an extraterrestrial heritage.  Finally, there was the powerful video for the strongest emotional song on the album, “Cold War”, apparently done on the first take, which recalls Sinead O’Connor’s video for “Nothing Compares to You” all the way down to a single tear.  So… she’s cute, a little crazy, has an incredible voice and the best moves, and could probably talk to you intelligently about the Singularity.  Is there really anything else you need in a pop superstar?

No surprise then that I was very excited when I heard she was opening for Of Montreal over Halloween weekend.  (I was decidedly less excited for Of Montreal and left for other Halloween festivities just a few songs into their set.)  And Janelle lived up to the high expectations I had built up for her.  The show was well orchestrated and highly entertaining.  And nothing detracted from or confused who the star of this show was; not the cool projections, the even cooler band members who were all swagger, nor shrouded characters roaming the stage.  It was clear Ms. Monae was the star and everything else was complementary window dressing.  Her voice was even better than I imagined in a live setting.  And her moves were there, though the low Palladium stage obscured most of them.  (Seriously Palladium, raise the stage a foot or two!)

The following videos are: 1) “Locked Inside” which compares favorably to Michael Jackson at his smoothest best; 2) “Cold War”; 3) “Tightrope.”  Apologies for shaky camera, but it is hard to stand completely still at a Janelle Monae show.


1 Response to “The Next Big Thing – Janelle Monae”

  1. November 11, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    I LOVE Janelle. Thanks for posting these wonderful videos. I love he rmusic and good job on the srticle.

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