The first time I saw Janelle Monáe was at the infamous Viper Room in LA a few years back. Back then, I was close enough to reach out and touch her. I can distinctly remember her emerging from the wings of the stage, mysteriously covered in black donned with a simple black cape. Throughout her performance, she cast her magical spell on the audience with powerful, meaningful songs such as “Sincerely, Jane” and “Cold War.” But the craziest thing I can recall about that night was a then completely UNKNOWN Bruno Mars was the opening act.
Many things have changed since my first live introduction to the phenom known as Janelle Monáe. She released her critically acclaimed sophomore album The Electric Lady, with guest spots that had the current industry bests side eyeing in jealousy (think Miguel, Erykah Badu, Esperanza Spaulding, Solange… oh yeah, and Prince). Janelle has performed for President Obama multiple times, featured on Fun.’s smash number 1 hit ‘We Are Young’ and is a national CoverGirl spokeswoman. Perhaps Janelle hasn’t blown up completely in the ways her previous opener Bruno Mars has, but these accolades are certainly not coming up short. One major thing that remains so is Janelle’s spirit and entrancement as a performer.
Roman GianArthur was selected as the opener for the evening at the House of Blues in downtown San Diego. He crooned through an original smooth track “I-69” that we had heard playing on the overhead speaker before the show and covered Erykah Badu among others. His rich tone and musicianship has me anticipating his next move as an artist.
A short intermission and cocktail later Janelle graced us with her divine presence. I was so enamored when she first came out that the first three songs I had to shake myself out of it to get out my phone to snap some photos of the prolific event. She performed an eclectic mix from her releases including stellar album cuts “Electric Lady”, the sexy “Give Em’ What They Want”, to the thumping, aggressive “Come Alive.” Of course she wouldn’t spare us her signatures such as the new funk classic “Q.U.E.E.N.”, “Tightrope” and classic “Cold War.”
Not stopping once to regain her composure, Janelle effortlessly danced her way across the stage and back while delivering pitch perfect vocals that brought out her soul and passion before sliding into the sensual, laid back tone of “PrimeTime.” Although missing her featured partner Miguel, Janelle’s haunting and almost desperate delivery fully carried the groovy number and had the whole house swaying back and forth.
Janelle’s beastly stage presence is unmatched by anyone I’ve seen live personally. She managed to literally get on the floor and through her magical ways of persuasion, convince the entire floor set to do the same while she worked her way up, physically and vocally. For the impressive finale, Monáe crowd served like a boss before nailing a fearless cover of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” to close out the show.
Janelle Monáe is a force to be reckoned with. If you don’t know her name yet, it’s only a matter of time before she’s ingrained in your mind as the powerhouse she’s worked so hard to be. You can catch her genre bending songs in a variety of our Core offerings: Rhythm Nation, Divas and a variety of our custom accounts. Pick up The Electric Lady available through Atlantic Records.
– Submitted by Tristan Bolden, Music Design