Singer Janelle Monáe will showcase her old-school sensibility and futuristic ideals Monday at Marymoor Park in Redmond.
If there’s any doubt that the singer and actress Janelle Monáe has put all of herself on the line as a young African-American, queer woman, child of working-class parents and outspoken defender of personal freedom on her latest album, “Dirty Computer,” then the second track makes her goal perfectly clear.
The simmering, synth-heavy song is called “Crazy, Classic Life” and it plays out like a sex-positive ode to rebellious youth and cultural diversity in a country that seems to have lost a sense of itself in the Trump era.
“I’m not America’s nightmare / I am the American dream,” she sings. “Just let me live my life.”
6:30 p.m. Monday, June 11, Marymoor Park in Redmond. Sold out.
But the song starts like a church sermon, with a male voice reminding America of its own founding principles by paraphrasing lines from the Declaration of Independence:
Most Read Entertainment Stories
- 'Crazy Rich Asians' is a parallel Asian world of values I don’t recognize, but I hope it's a hit
- Alice in Chains to perform atop Space Needle among string of Seattle events
- Death Cab for Cutie re-energized on 'pivotal' new album 'Thank You for Today'
- Now streaming: 'Avengers: Infinity War,' 'Disenchantment,' 'Nightmare Alley'
- Blink and you won’t miss it: Face tattoos go mainstream
“You told us, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal and that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit happiness.’ ”
You half expect a “but” to come next but Monáe, one of the most inventive, surprising and gifted entertainers of her generation, has built a successful career and crafted an otherworldly mystique by musically taking fans places they didn’t expect to go, most memorably in crisp pantsuits, a striking pallet of blacks and whites and masculine pompadours. “Crazy, Classic Life” trades in proud resolve, not grievance.
Monáe is scheduled to perform Monday night at Marymoor Park as part of her nationwide tour for “Dirty Computer” and if her past shows are any indication, it will be a high-energy, stylish and deeply soulful affair.
The 32-year-old is an Afrofuturistic mash-up who conjures old-school images of Prince, Outkast-era Andre 3000, Michael Jackson and James Brown during her fleet-footed live performances, while singing songs that see hope in the next generation.
During a phone interview, Monáe describes herself not so much as a musician or advocate but as a storyteller who used to write short tales as a child as a creative outlet and who has found a second calling as a film actress (“Hidden Figres,” “Moonlight”).
While the new album seems inspired by the Trump presidency, she says most of the songs on it were spinning around in her head even before the launch of her sci-fi inspired, breakout album from 2010 “The ArchAndroid,” which introduced her alter-ego — a loving cyborg named Cindi Mayweather who is sent back in time to free society from oppressors who restrict individual expression — to a wider audience.
Her sharecropper grandmother and janitor mother have long served as creative muses, but more recently so do women who’ve spoken out during the #MeToo movement and the mothers of African-American victims of police shootings, some of whom she brought on stage during her rousing speech and musical performance at last year’s Women’s March in Washington, D.C.
Drawing on the past but also the tech age’s embrace of transparency, Monáe has shown us the future of pop stardom, too, one in which our idols don’t hide who they are from society, or themselves. Monáe recently came out as “pansexual” and her new album pays special homage to the LGBTQ community, among with other historically marginalized groups such as people of color, women, the poor and immigrants.
In Monáe’s dystopian but somehow ebullient alternate universe, “dirty computers” are misfits and outcasts whose identities are seen as bugs or flaws that need correcting, the way we might think of problematic software.
“ ‘Dirty Computer’ deals with living in a society where your very existence is erased,” Monáe says. “I’m speaking from a first-person perspective but I felt like many people could identify with that.”
She prefers to see difference and nonconformity as “attributes, features and added values” for society.
“It was important for me to be clear about who I am and where I am,” Monáe says of her latest blend of confessional and political entertainment. By exploring her life and vulnerabilities, she has given voice to causes much greater than herself.
As striking as Monáe’s music, which blends everything from Prince-style funk to New Wave to old-time soul, are her videos, which she dubs “emotion pictures.”
Monáe is very much a visual artist and to watch the way she turns pants designed to resemble a woman’s private parts into a bold feminist statement in the video for “PYNK” is to watch a pop star reaching for something that captures the spirit of the day, not just a clickable spectacle for the YouTube crowd.
And in the video for the politically searing song “Django Jane,” the botlike Cindi Mayweather we’ve come to know goes full-on hip-hop champion for “highly melanated” women and “black girl magic”:
“We gave you life / We gave you birth / We gave you God / We gave you earth / We femme the future / Don’t make it worse.”
Monáe says fans can expect her live show to be an extension of the mood of her albums and videos, flights of artistic fancy that even when youthfully buoyant feel weighted to the movements that dominate today’s headlines.
“For people who come to ‘Dirty Computer’ shows, they should feel at home,” she says. “They should also be ready to be celebrated. And they should be ready to feel more free after they walk out.”