The Electric Lady: Janelle Monae.

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About three and a half years ago, Janelle Monáe came into my life. I fell hard for her right when she was just starting to get widespread attention, and it’s been amazing to see everything that’s happened with her career since then. I was lucky enough to see her perform live in 2011 when she toured with Bruno Mars, and since then I’ve been waiting (im)patiently for a new album and another chance to see her come alive on stage. I was crushed when her tour dates were finally announced and I realized I’d be out of town when she’s at the Apollo Theater in October.

BUT THEN…I was poking around on Facebook on Saturday morning, and I saw something on her official page about sending an email for a chance to see her perform on Monday night in NYC at a private launch party for her new double album, The Electric Lady. I figured there was no chance, but I send the email anyway and got on with my day. Eleven hours later, I got a reply to my email letting me know I was on the list for the event — location to be disclosed Monday afternoon! WOO-HOO + YAY!!!

The party (sponsored by Target, who are clearly very invested in JM, having floated a pirate ship around the Hudson all day while broadcasting the album over the airwaves) was held at Pier 84, in pretty much ideal weather for outdoor concert-going. The stage was T-shaped with no barrier whatsoever, and because the event was so small compared to a full venue show, I was able to stand all the way up in front in the best possible spot. I kind of couldn’t believe it was happening even before she came on stage.

Here is where I think photos should take over for a bit…

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I don’t know how else to say it: Janelle Monáe is PHENOMENAL on stage. So full of energy and passion and true artistry — and that goes for the rest of her band, too. She OWNS the stage. Everyone at the show was having the most amazing time; singing, dancing, yelling, clapping and pounding the stage. It was one big huge party! I know it’s a cliche to say that someone’s energy is infectious, but Janelle’s really is. I defy anyone to watch her perform and not want to dance like a little old earthquake. She is IT. There is no one else in popular music right now who is doing anything like this — she’s like a futuristic hybrid of James Brown, Michael Jackson, Prince and Judy Garland. UN. REAL.

A few hours before the show, she recorded a performance to air later that night on David Letterman’s show. Let’s take a look, yes?

YES. YES. YES. The audience loved her, Dave loved her, that desk loved her. Why the whole world isn’t talking about this performance (or, for that matter, why we don’t see Janelle on shows like MTV’s VMAs) is really beyond me. We should all be hanging flags out of our windows professing our love for The Electric Lady.

Speaking of The Electric Lady, you’ve gotta get this album. It was officially released yesterday, and I doubt I’ll be listening to anything else for quite a while. It is SO GOOD. There aren’t enough superlatives — it’s the best new album I’ve heard in years. Like Metropolis and The ArchAndroid, The Electric Lady follows the story of android Cindi Mayweather in a continuation of a 7-part concept series. Beyond being a incredible listen, it’s also smart and deep. (Also: PRINCE.)

Let’s look at some more pictures…

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Yes, that’s Diddy, whose Bad Boy label has played a huge role in allowing Janelle to get the exposure she deserves while still maintaining full control over her career and musical output. In his introduction before she came out on stage, Diddy (like Letterman) gave a nod to James Brown by referring to Janelle as “The Hardest Working Woman in Show Business” — and I can’t disagree with that title. She is giving it ALL.

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Big Boi was there too — he sang the praises of his little sister and performed “Tightrope” and “Come Alive,” which as usual turned into a huge party to close out the night. The Wondaland family, the entire band, backstage celebrities and a pack of android-alikes danced like crazy on stage while Janelle crowd-surfed. So good.

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(Just in case you needed more convincing…)

30 comments
  1. AudrieSep 11, 201312:23 pm

    She gives me chills every single time.

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  2. fionaSep 11, 201312:23 pm

    Your photos are absolutely INCREDIBLE. Thank you for taking and sharing such phenomenal shots! You captured her energy and personality — so wonderful. Streaming the album now :-)

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  3. miss alixSep 11, 201312:35 pm

    Great photos Anna! This show looks like it was super fun.

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  4. KateSep 11, 201312:56 pm

    What great shots! I’ve seen Janelle in Sydney at the Opera House and in San Francisco with the Symphony – she is unparalleled. Adore her energy, talent and hard, hard work – totally in love with her and her entourage!

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  5. MarianeSep 11, 20131:15 pm

    I have been in love with her for a while too. You are a lucky lady! I love the way she dance, especially in tightrope with her feet doing the ”snake”!

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  6. MarianeSep 11, 20131:33 pm

    Also, I really love that she is not trying to be sexy (she just is naturally), in these days in the music industry everybody seems to want to provoke and be scandalous (and I am a very open minded lady), I just see this as being cheap and classless. Janelle is the exact opposite, she choose to present her talent, not her booty!

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  7. Melinda's MusingsSep 11, 20131:41 pm

    Wow, I’m so envious of you right now! I love Janelle Monae and also live in NYC, so I wish I saw this. Plus Diddy & Big Boi?? You must have been so close, your photos are fantastic! I’ll check out the new album.

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  8. jenniferSep 11, 20132:22 pm

    OMG. She is so amazing and those pictures are so amazing!!! I cannot wait to see her in November.

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  9. Juliane at Modern MuralSep 11, 20132:38 pm

    I love her style! Those boots and suspenders… so classy!

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  10. DanielleSep 11, 20133:54 pm

    LOVE these photos. How exciting for you! I love her and had no idea she had a new record out. I’m going to buy it tonight!

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  11. deanSep 11, 20134:25 pm

    HELL. YES. such a great post!! I couldn’t agree more– she just did the same show in Chicago and I was suuuper bummed that I couldn’t make it.

    not sure if you’ve seen it, but my husband just did this amazing cover story on her…thought you might appreciate some gorgeous design + one of your fave artists ;) let it load and scroll down!

    http://pitchfork.com/features/cover-story/reader/janelle-monae/

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    Anna @ D16 /

    Dean, this is GORGEOUS!! I’ll read the article later, but for now I’m just going to gaze…

  12. NinaSep 11, 20135:13 pm

    Happy for you! Those photos are beautiful.

    Another thing, I still suck at Twitter and sent you a link but later realised you were most likely asleep on the other side of the Atlantic, so here it is. Thought you might enjoy it!
    http://infosthetics.com/archives/2013/08/bklynr_mapping_the_age_of_each_building_in_brooklyn.html

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    Anna @ D16 /

    Hmmm, interesting! I live in one of those very heavily-yellow (old) areas. The dates on the older buildings I checked (including mine) are off by at least several decades in many cases, though, I suspect because detailed records were not kept until the early 1900s.

  13. loriSep 11, 20137:58 pm

    She’s amazing and exciting that you actually got tickets to this show!! Her interview on NPR this weekend was fantastic.

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  14. KimSep 11, 20138:37 pm

    This gig looks AMAZING! And your pics captured her energy so well! I just adore everything she does.

    She played a couple of years back here in Sydney at the Sydney Opera House and I DIDNT GO!! I’m still not over missing out on that.

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  15. AdamSep 11, 201310:00 pm

    WOW!!! Fantastic pictures! Looks like an amazing show. I just listened to clips from her new album and I really like what I hear, I’m going to go back and listen to the other two!

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  16. Moorea SealSep 11, 201310:41 pm

    I love her SO much. And when I saw ALL the other people that I am obsessed with that she collaborated with in the new album… I wanted to barf with happiness. AAAAAAHHHH

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  17. LeeSep 12, 201312:49 am

    Janelle Monae should be a superstar. She’s got so much soul!

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  18. alexisSep 12, 20131:00 am

    Read your post at… I don’t know… 8p? Album promptly purchased. Current listen count (1a)
    Electric lady: 11
    Givin Em What They Love: 8
    Q.U.E.E.N: 7

    Entire album: 3
    So. Thanks.
    For (another) great recommendation.
    And also helping to confirm that I have impulse control problems.

    [Reply]

    Simone /

    Wow, that’s lucky. Good for you.
    Showed all the videos to my girls (7 & 10) and they loved it, thought it was very cool.
    Made me think I should make a list of cool women in music and shove it down their throat before someone does something stupid like introduce them to Miley Cyrus or Taylor Swift. I showed them Blondie and The Sugarhill Gang with Rappers Delight and Grandmaster Flash with The Message yesterday (very very old, but still good). And your Janelle Monae links ofcourse.
    Have a wonderful day!

    Simone /

    Sorry Alexis, I have no idea how my comment became a reply to your comment. But as long as your impulse control issues are about music albums it doesn’t really seem like a problem (unless you start buying houses on an impulse, that could become problematic). Have a wonderful day!

  19. SimoneSep 12, 20134:19 am

    P.S. Not related to this at all, and of course you are a New Yorker so you probably know everything about New York there is to know and more than I will ever know, but I read this and it sounds really great, so on the off-chance that you had not heard of it I thought you might like it as well: http://www.wmagazine.com/culture/art-and-design/2013/05/rainer-judd-donald-judd-101-spring-st/

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  20. ElenaSep 12, 201311:18 am

    Yes, yes, yes! Love her. Going to see her on Nov. 26 here in Atlanta at the Tabernacle. I can not wait! Thanks for the amazing pics.

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  21. JennieSep 12, 20134:02 pm

    YES. YES. YES, indeed!!! Thank you for making me listen to her by posting all of these beautiful pictures and rave reviews. This is exactly the kind of music I need in my life right now.

    [Reply]

  22. KateSep 12, 20134:18 pm

    Now I’m convinced!

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  23. MphSep 13, 201311:26 pm

    SOLD! Omg, thanks for the recommendation!

    [Reply]

  24. petal and plumeSep 14, 201311:52 am

    isn’t she incredible? what a talented woman!
    xx

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  25. Chloe CSep 14, 201312:31 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    Have to work a lot of hours and miss a lot of things these days. So happy to find out about this girl!

    [Reply]

  26. osaidNov 1, 20132:12 pm

    she is sooooo talented….love her….

    [Reply]

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