Purposeful drumbeats, majestically playing trumpets in the purest C major – what set in the original by Richard Strauss, as thinker Zarathustra decides to descend to the people, has now announced an African American woman in the Columbiahalle; just monumental enough for the woman who uses her music to explore the scope for individuality and conformity: Janelle Monáe.
Since »Metropolis«, her first work on a major label, critics have been celebrating the singer for making her own and therefore not doing anything wrong. Instead of producing charts-compliant hits, Monáe created a world of sound on her debut in 2007, whose soulful passages of classical music recalled the soundtracks of old Hollywood. Instead of following the sexist beauty ideals that the media world holds for successful black women, for a long time she wore only tuxedos and androgynous outfits. And instead of pretending to be the navel of the world, Janelle Monáe Robinson drew attention to Cindi Mayweather, her alter ego in an android form. Similar to Zarathustra, the human machine has a messianic role: After falling in love with a human being and fleeing from artificial intelligence, Mayweather travels through time to free the androids from oppression.
In times when Rihanna greeted under the umbrella and Katy Perry sang the party qualities of Californian “gurls”, Monae's dystopian concept albums were a fresh change. Above all, this was not automaton music, but deep in the pop history of rooted, future-facing R 'n' B. Monáe sounded as invigorating as the Parliament-Funkadelic collective, as eclectic as Prince, as ethereal as Erykah Badu and as glamorous as Outkast. The fact that the latter, more precisely the rapper Big Boi, was one of Monae's earliest supporters and that Prince was her mentor until his death, actually says it all.
Until 2013, on their third album »The Electric Lady«, Monáe has given the rebellious cyborg, with »QUEEN« – an acronym for »Queer, Untouchables, Emigrants, Excommunicated, Negroid« – written a hymn to the Hades and settled in Silence wrapped in personal matters. With statements like “I date only androids” she has kept the cult of personality at bay. What remained was meticulous perfection, inviolable fiction.
Today, Janelle Monáe describes her Afro-futuristically charged sci-fi project as “overcompensation”. Where Cindi Maywea-ther was intrepid, the woman behind it doubted the ability to live up to the ideals of show business by showing herself what she is: the daughter of a caretaker and garbage collector, raised in the deep-religious Baptist community of Kansas -City. No cyberspace-Jeanne-d'Arc, possibly a virus-infected computer.
However, during a therapy that began before the release of her second album “The ArchAndroid,” Janelle Monáe Robinson found a new self-image. In the documentary “A Revolution Of Love,” she is grateful for her upbringing, which sharpened her sense of community: “My grandmother, my mother, my father sacrificed a lot for me – I do not know how not to work hard.” Also her penchant for uniform turns out to be a tribute to her parents' work ethic.
Needless to say, today's 33-year-old is so much more than her background. Monáe graduated from drama classes in New York City and Philadelphia and has since conquered the film world, emphasizing strong female characters, such as Moonlight. It circulates an anecdote from the childhood of the talented performer, she goes like this: The little Janelle had to be escorted partly from the church, because she did not stop to smash Michael Jackson's “Beat It”. Already in school she was the star of the theater group, she rehearsed her performances in the local cellar, Mama Janet commented from the sofa. At 16, she moved to Atlanta, where she sang in front of the library in her free time. Fanpost answered her during her shifts in an office supply store. The fact that her boss quit her was luck in bad luck. The expulsion inspired Janelle Monáe – she wrote “Letting Go,” the song that made rapper Big Boi aware of her and started her career.
Janelle Monáe shines in the Columbiahalle, lets her facial expressions speak, looks wide-eyed right and left, scurries from here to there as if pushed by unseen forces, makes the moonwalk and throws herself, rousing the brilliant microphone stand to the floor. She conjures the dancing crowd to her knees until she finally descends to sing the call-and-response part face-to-face. And Monáe, now identified as pan-sexual, speaks of dark times and self-acceptance, feminism and LGBTQIA * rights – and Donald Trump's dismissal.
Because Janelle Monáe got rid of her super heroine version on her latest album “Dirty Computer”. Not a simple thing, as the singer tells. But the only way to deal with the fear and anxiety that Trump's election triggered in her. Since then, the “bug” in the system, as she experienced her personal nature, is no longer weakness, but super power. In the line “I'm dirty, I'm proud” she immortalized her. Already at the Women's March in Washington, she urged attendees to celebrate what she was all about – even if it unsettled the rest. “Even if it unsettles you,” she adds in the Columbiahalle. But, “I'm happy I did not let my fears come between me and my freedom,” she says, while Trayvon Martin and Martin Luther King appear on the screen behind her. Perhaps it is not just the reincarnation of Prince, as some say, but also of Zarathus-tra. So Janelle Monáe spoke.
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