What An Experience: Janelle Monae Rocks the Apollo and My Soul

by Kiani Ned

Janelle Monae last weekend at The Apollo Theater.

I am almost certain that I had a religious experience on Friday, October 18th. I was truly blessed by the presence of Janelle Monae at the Apollo Theater. I realize that this is a very intense statement to make–especially because I’m skeptical of the idolization of celebrities. Although, I do have very strong feelings of admiration for Kanye West… But, I digress.

Knowing my… uhm, fondness for Miss Monae and her music, a pal of mine from high school invited me to her concert. I repressed my feelings about this grand gesture of kindheartedness throughout the week because I knew for certain that I would not be able to sleep because of excitement. It’s good thing I did, because the concert was just too much for me to deal with emotionally. I’m getting emotional writing this…

The Apollo Theater on 125th and
Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard

Let me start by saying that to perform at The Apollo Theater is a huge deal, people. Musical legends such as Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Michael Jackson, and Aretha Franklin have graced the legendary stage. So much of Janelle Monae’s musical style is influenced by these great musicians. On Friday night, I was a part of Janelle Monae’s dream to perform on the same stage as her musical inspirations, and I was not disappointed.

A young man by the name of Roman GianArthur, a member of Wondaland Arts Society, the artist collective created by Janelle Monae herself, opened the show with some of his own music and a few excellent covers of songs like “Electric Feel” by MGMT and “Bag Lady” by Erykah Badu. Roman wasn’t afraid to get down with his dance moves and let out his passion for funk and fashion. He graced the stage in a beautiful classic suit and oxfords, an outfit commonly worn by Janelle Monae and the Wondaland Arts Society. In fact, her whole posse was there hyping up the crowd, all decked in black and white and awesome bow ties and bouffants. The beauty brought tears to my eyes.

“I-69” by Roman GianArthur

When Roman GianArthur finished performing, the entire building was buzzing with excitement as the stage crew revealed the all black and white set-up for the stage. Then the lights went out. And in that moment I would never recover from what was about to happen (in the best way possible). At the beginning of the show a story for the concert was set–Janelle Monae was a patient at an insane asylum for artists and musicians. The musicians were allowed to perform at the asylum. And so she did. Monae opened with the super soulful “Givin’ ‘Em What They Love.” And made her way through her sophomore album “Electric Lady” performing recent hits like “Primetime,” “Q.U.E.E.N.,” and “Electric Lady.” She also performed classics such as “Cold War” and “Tightrope” from her debut album The ArchAndroid. She closed the show with one of my favorites from Electric Lady titled “What An Experience.” And it was definitely an experience!

Simply put, Janelle Monae is an incredible artist and performer. She believes that “music is the weapon of the future.” She’s a proud feminist who just wants everyone to get funky together. I felt like I could do anything that night in the Apollo Theater–I was so pumped by the good vibes and thumping music! So much of my experience was made by her amazing interaction with the crowd and the members of her band. I was so inspired by how into the music the dancers, members of the band, and her posse were–they interacted with the audience just as much as she did! She sang with the crowd, surfed on top of the crowd, and even danced through the crowd. I was fortunate enough to be 50 feet away from the stage…and able to see that she was literally crafted from stars and is a perfect human being. But…I’m not idolizing her or anything.

 “Q.U.E.E.N.” featuring Erykah Badu

Kiani Ned is a sophomore at Barnard and the Social Media Strategist for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of New York Post and Vulture.

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One thought on “What An Experience: Janelle Monae Rocks the Apollo and My Soul

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