SXSW Review: Janelle Monae at the Austin Music Hall

Most of y’all know that I am a very discriminiating music connisseur. So when I say that someone “killed it,” during a performance you know that said performer has brought their A-level game.

And Janelle Monae did just that. 

Let’s get one thing straight. Ms. Monae only performed three songs. I think it took longer for her band to set up than for her performance. Yes, it felt like a tease, like the girl you gettin’ it on with suddenly got up and left the room. Even after leaving the stage so abruptly, no one in the audience was mad. Why? Because Ms. Monae’s three song set was better than most artists’ full performance career.

Ms. Monae brought 110% of everything she had to the floor at the Austin Music hall. With her black and white motif and custom 50’s era hair, she carried out the futuristc approach to her sound with Motown precision. Every move was coriegraphed percicely to her music, so perfect that I question that maybe she is the android that she claims on her EPs.

But it’s not just showmanship. Monae can actually sing too. Her powerful voice jumps over the uptempto tracks like Many Moons, but she takes care of the ballads as well. And her band (who we actually got to meet since they were staying in our hotel), supported Monae in harmony through every note.

Monae has become the breakout start of SXSW, getting acclaim from The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and Entertainment Weekly. Like the Globe says, “she so defiantly challenges our notion of what a black female pop singer is supposed to be. She herself has talked about her conviction to quash stereotypes of how she should sound and dress.” 

Monae is well on her way to challenge those perceptions. Is America ready to buy in?