02 August 2010

Live: Janelle Monáe @ Berkeley Street Studio

{Even NPR-listening yuppies can't ruin a good time.}

Who: Janelle Monáe
Where: Berkeley Street Studios, Santa Monica, CA
When: Saturday, 22 June 2010

Janelle Monáe - "Tightrope" (feat. Big Boi)

Live here in Los Angeles long enough and you'll have That Friend with an "in." But more often than not, that "in" is usually a case of over-promise and under-deliver.

But there are those friends with that legitimate "in."

My friend who had a legitimate "in" gave me a call and asked if I wanted see a show. The result was This Guy (two thumbs pointed towards me) going to see Janelle Monáe at Berkeley Street Studios with about a hundred other people. Not too shabby.

The show was sponsored by KCRW and I had the impression that it was some sort of exclusive show for those who donated a boatload of money or something like that. So, naturally, I'm thinking, "There's gonna be a bunch of limousine-liberal, expensive-wine-guzzling, Prius-driving, awkward-psuedo-dancing yuppies who think they're cool by going to this show."

Well, I was right.

No, I'm being a little harsh. There were certainly some yuppies with awkward dance moves but that doesn't matter, they're supporting KCRW and that's certainly fine by me.

And, really, Janelle Monáe provided enough moves for the entire crowd. And then some.

Long story, short. Beg, borrow, and steal your way to her next show. The songs are tight, her voice is solid gold, the lyrics are absolute aces, the energy is high, and the soul is deep. If you see her in concert and your body doesn't start moving to the music, you might be a soulless robot. Get yourself checked out immediately.

I really love this funky, neo-soul style that has been popping up over the years. But Janelle Monáe, compared to say, Little Jackie or Amy Winehouse, is sure to out-shine them all.

Winehouse has oodles of potential to be absolutely massive but she may need to stop being so close with her friend Mr. C. Cocaine.

The alleged traditionalist in me gravitates more towards Little Jackie and her smooth, Lauryn Hill-esque voice and the laid-back, sunglasses-cool vibe in the music. But Monáe's take on this musical style is like a fresh spin on a trusty old turntable (not sure if that metaphor is gonna work. Just roll with it.).

And that fresh spin is going to make Monáe absolutely huge.

Monáe's theatrics, big space-age themes and sharp fashion sense could draw surface-level comparisons to the likes of Lady Gaga and those of her ilk, but the difference is that Monáe's music seems more organic. Her writing is smart and honest and her subtle science-fiction references doesn't feel out of place or forced.

I like that she's versatile (and a little weird) too. Take a listen to her LP The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III) and you're going to hear her blend together a lot of styles and vibes, that makes for an album that still feels like an album with great tracks instead of just a few singles haphazardly thrown together with some other filler (i.e. shit).
In the past, Monáe's broad sonic palette might have been a hindrance. In the age of the download, [Jason] Bentley says, it's a plus. "We're in a different time by virtue of the way music is consumed," said Bentley. "There aren't as many strict formats. Janelle is a very contemporary artist, no longer kept in a box by radio formats. I'm sure there will be some stations that won't get it -- but a star's a star, and she's got it."
[LA Times]
She is going to be a star. Her appeal and charisma is undeniable and wide-ranging. I never thought she'd be touring with the likes of Of Montreal but listen to her album and it all starts to make sense.

Point is, no matter how you slice it, Monáe's energetic records and her James Brown-esque stage presence is going to attract the attention of anyone who loves their pop music with soul. And then some.

Live at Berkeley Street Studios

Listen to the entire show on KCRW! It's good. Trust me.

The ArchAndroid
{Do yourself a favor, click the image above and buy the record on Amazon.com}

Photos by Pet Bear Sounds