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SXSW 09: Janelle Monáe

Posted by James Reed  March 19, 2009 07:41 AM

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I've never met an alien, but I feel confident saying Janelle Monáe might be from another planet, the fictitious one where Grace Jones, David Bowie, OutKast, and Labelle (circa '74) meet every Sunday looking fabulous for a spot of tea.

This rising R&B/hip-hop star is getting a lot of buzz down here at South by Southwest, and I understand why after watching Monáe's wild set at Stubb's last night. The woman is completely magnetic, a petite package as frenetic and fierce as her hair, which is shaved on the sides, sort of a cross between a pompadour and an Afro.

The lights went down right at 8 p.m., and after some gurgling, space-age introductory music, Monáe bounded onstage in a white tuxedo shirt tucked into black trousers, with matching black cummerbund. Here's Monáe digging into her opening number, "Violet Stars Happy Hunting," strutting like the love child of Chuck Berry and '70s funk diva Betty Davis. Like everyone around me with jaws ajar, I was hooked immediately.

Oh, and here's further proof that the lady knows how to work a crowd. You'll have to forgive the 13 seconds were the camera drops to the floor. Monáe was headed right toward me, and I did my part to get her back onstage.


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