Janelle Monaé in her network debut, performing “Tightrope” on Letterman –
– shows that she’s not just another slick studio production. Live and in person she has the moves and the pipes and the stems and she’s still rockin’ the Bette Davis meets Angela Davis ‘do.
Even as young and fresh as she is, the homage to the Godfather of Soul – when she gets the cloak brought out and draped over her – a standard feature of James Brown’s live shows – and sings “you gotta get on up… you gotta stay on the scene” – is something that she totally earns. Gonads out of bounds! Pop rock explosion of phunky pleasure!
(And check out P Dipstick channeling Tracy Morgan from 30 Rock at the end of the clip…)
Not convinced that she’s earned that cloak? Here she is in a live performance in Philadelphia from two years ago:
Who is she? What planet is she from? How did they cram this much talent and inventiveness into one cyber-girl?
And… R&B? dance? rock? pop? indie? It’s hard to say, but one thing is clear – who cares? The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed – it’s being hogged by Janelle Monaé – this magnificent mutant android, programmed with the melded memory chips of James Brown, Judy Garland, Prince, Michael Jackson, David Bowie and Grace Jones, and running on pure funk power cells.