Singer, songwriter, and actor Janelle Monáe recently performed at DC’s Anthem at the end of September to promote their new effervescent album The Age of Pleasure which was released this past June.
As soon as the curtain dropped, a vivacious stage covered in vibrant flowers was revealed. Two trumpet players donned the stage and introduced the members of the band. Finally, Monáe herself took the stage wearing a gorgeous oversized cape, hairpiece, and boots enveloped in flowers—matching the lively set around them. They opened with “Float” (feat. Seun Kuti & Egypt 80), the brassy and dreamy hit song that embodies the blissfully carefree nature of the newest album.
Most of Janelle Monáe’s previous musical work has maintained a focal point on Afrofuturist ideas, which at its core involves creativity that is used to re-envision “people of color in a shared harmonious future free of race-based power issues” (Womack, 2013). This can be seen in Monáe’s android alter ego, Cindi Mayweather in The ArchAndroid (2010) album.
However, in the artist’s album The Age of Pleasure, Monáe communicates a different and more personalized message that emphasizes self-love and liberation. In “Float”, Monáe states she feels “light as a feather” (Monáe, 2023), and in “Haute” they exude self-confidence through the lyrics “they say I look pretty, Can’t tell me I’m not” (Monáe, 2023). The lyricism within these songs perfectly pairs with the lively yet sensual album full of Afrobeats, brassy instruments, and Monáe’s transcendent vocals to evoke sentiments of self-determination, confidence, and empowerment.
The emphasis on self-appreciation and liberation of the concert was not solely limited to The Age of Pleasure. When performing “Pynk” from their 2018 Dirty Computer album, Monáe sent a deliberate message of sexual empowerment. This was conveyed through the song itself and the singer’s costume design as Monáe graced the stage with an outfit that resembled the female genitalia.
Janelle Monáe’s The Age of Pleasure concert was a transcendent experience for all parties present. The entire venue was encompassed in this jubilant and celebratory atmosphere where Monáe’s artistry could be fully enjoyed by the performers and the reverent fans that crowded the floor. This makes me, other fans, and hopefully readers excited about what musically insightful work Janelle Monáe will create in the future.