I have followed Janelle Monáe since the release of her debut album The ArchAndroid. I guess you could say I was a casual fan at first; I bought the album and enjoyed it, but it ended there. I didn’t invest in learning too much about her. Then, Electric Lady came and I was very much impressed, but that tour didn’t come to New York. With Dirty Computer, she introduced the world to her true self, and I fell in love. I had to see her live.
Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer Tour
This time, her tour did come to New York, but I opted to travel to Washington, D.C. because general admission tickets were cheaper, the standing room section is larger, and because I thought it would be an appropriate place to see Dirty Computer live given the content of songs like “Americans.” My thoughts proved to be correct. Not only that, but I now must add Janelle to my list of favorite artists… because she has left me floored. I expected her to be great, but she truly blew me away.
She open the show with album intro “Dirty Computer” before launching into the vivacious “Crazy, Classic, Life.” Filled with an unmatched, crazy energy and stunning, crisp, classic vocals – she gave me life just one song in. There’s something special when she puts her rap hat on and lets loose, too, as she does with the rap verse here. She continued almost non-stop, strutting though the nearly the entire first half of her album: “Take a Byte,” “Screwed,” and one of my favorites, “Django Jane.” Perched atop her throne, she, in true hip-hop fashion, boastfully asks: “If she the G.O.A.T., now would anybody doubt it?”. To be honest, whether she means it or not, she made a very strong case for baring the title, barely 30 minutes into her show.
Next, she took a short break to don her pussy pants and perform the hell out of the funky bop, “Pynk” (yes, it was innuendo-heavy), followed by “Yoga” (yes, she had her female dancers bending over) and “I Like That” (yes, she is talking about that). This section of the show, which I affectionately called the “Lesbian medley” to my friend, ends appropriately with “Don’t Judge Me,” featuring a sensual video montage starring her partner Tessa Thompson and… a very fine man.
Shifting gears, she returned to the stage moments later donning the face mask from the Dirty Computer album, in silhouette lighting, to do a Michael Jackson inspired dance routine over the intro to her Prince inspired groove, “Make Me Feel.” Listen. Her MJ was so damn good, she had me wondering if she was a hologram. Then, she effortlessly paid tribute to perhaps her biggest inspiration, Prince, by performing the hell out of “Make Me Feel,” because she knows the best way to pay tribute to Prince is to channel him and show him what she learned, not cover his song.
With how hard she slayed “Make Me Feel,” I truthfully expected the show to end there. I thought it’d be the fake-out, beg-me-for-an-encore moment, and she’d do “Tight Rope” or “Cold War” and “Americans,” and go home. But nope. She tirelessly transitioned right into “I Got the Juice,” and even brought about 6-7 fans on stage to show off their dance “juice,” allowing each of them a moment to shine individually. It was such an awesome moment. Sure, artists bring fans on stage all the time, but the way Janelle focused on each individual and made them feel special, allowing them the safe space to express themselves was truly moving.
An “American” Encore
The time had come. It was time for shit to get real. Janelle returned to the stage, donning her militant attire, echoing Janet’s Rhythm Nation and spoke about how important it was to know what we’re fighting for before launching into the all too appropriate “Cold War,” followed by “Tight Rope.” Now came the true beg-me-for-an-encore moment, and Janelle took the stage one last time to perform “So Afraid,” before which she urged us to be our true selves, followed by her own American anthem, live at The Anthem: “Americans.” The song, in which she sings “this is not my America” and proclaims that it won’t be until everyone has equal rights, hit all too close to home – especially being a stone’s throw away from the Russian House. I mean White House.
Politically charged, socially conscious, emotionally present, creatively unparalleled, Janelle Monáe’s raw talent shines more than ever. The Dirty Computer era for Janelle Monáe is almost like a rebirth, or reintroduction. We first met her as the ArchAndroid, hiding behind a character in her fantastical world. Now, she has literally and figuratively come out of her land of fiction to introduce the world to the musical and creative genius that has been here all along. Even if it took 10 years, the wait was well worth it.
With the Dirty Computer Tour she cements her status as a consummate performer; an impeccable entertainer who, next time, needs a much bigger stage and a venue with a much bigger capacity. If you still have the chance, catch the Dirty Computer Tour before its too late. Next time, tickets are destined to be more expensive, and more in demand. It’s only up from here for 32 year old Janelle Monáe. To go back to the question of “If she the G.O.A.T., now would anybody doubt it?”…
In time, she certainly will sit among them. Nobody should doubt it.