On Friday night, I went to see Janelle Monáe for the Dirty Computer Tour. I’ve loved her forever and have admired her artistry, politics, music, visuals and the way she exudes a kind of distant closeness that makes her seem so close and far away at the same time. I knew that this night would be special, but I was not prepared for what actually happened.
Before St. Beauty opened, the venue played popular songs and people scurried to find a good spot in the front on the floor trying to get as close as possible to the stage. My friend and I got a decent spot in the front where we could see the center of the stage. We talked, laughed, joked, and danced with the people around us. When St. Beauty finally came on, everyone was so excited and St. Beauty was wonderful. They blessed us all with their soothing voices, great energy, and ethereal hair. When they left, we were ready, MORE than ready for Janelle because if the opening was that good, the main act was sure to be amazing.
When Janelle’s band came out, the place erupted with shouting and applause. The air was pulsating, you could feel other people’s screams travel down your eardrum into your chest. The music started playing for “Dirty Computer” and I waited anxiously for her arrival. The Q.U.E.E.N. knows how to make an entrance. When I saw her in her white and black checkered pants and red and white jacket about to sing “Crazy, Classic, Life”, she had this intense energy of love flowing off of her, the kind of love you feel when you know someone is living in their truth.
Truth is the first thing that drew me into her music. When she released her first song “Lettin Go”, she sang about getting fired and how this would allow her the space to follow her dreams and passion without anything to stop her. On her musical journey through Metropolis, I was introduced to Cindi Mayweather, the android in her Afrofuturistic storyline and Monáe’s alter ego. I met Cindi as she was running away because she fell in love with a human named “Anthony Greendown”. Throughout ArchAndroid and Electric Lady, we see Cindi on the run, questioning her ability to love, who she loves, and how she loves. For me, Dirty Computer is the ultimate expression of truth and love because truth can only come from a kind of love that dares to be honest, dares to change, and dares to exist in spite of every law, rule, or person that says that it shouldn’t.
“Even if it makes others uncomfortable, I will love who I am.” — Janelle Monáe, “Q.U.E.E.N.”
Between the performances, the outfit changes, and the dance moves all I could think about was this love story unfolding right in front of me. Dirty Computer is an ode to Janelle Monáe, to her wants, desires, frustrations, feelings, attractions, and her truth. Beyond seeing the accumulation of her inspirations—Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Prince, James Brown—in her physical movements, I could see her and what a sight it was to behold.
Towards the end of the concert, there was a moving political message during “So Afraid”. Behind her, the screens showed people resisting and fighting their oppressors in marches and riots, bringing to light that the tumultuous society that we live in makes it hard to be yourself, love freely, and stand in your truth. People are fighting to survive, fighting to get their children back, fighting for LGBTQ rights, fighting for Black lives, fighting for the poor, fighting for all of the oppressed in today’s society and between all that fighting, when do these people—because first and foremost, they are people—get the chance to live in their truth?
The show ended with “Americans” which is the last song off of the Dirty Computer album. The intro to this song always makes me emotional and I had to hold back tears during the concert. In the intro, she lets the people who are ostracized for living in their truth know that they will create their own paradise and find a way to live in a world that is full of acceptance, full of love, and unafraid of the fact that multiple truths can exist at the same time and within the same person. With this album, I felt empowered to live wholly in my truth and to speak in a way that honors who I am. At this concert, I saw love and she was everything.
“Hold on, don’t fight your war alone. Halo around you, don’t have to face it on your own. We will win this fight. Let all souls be brave. We’ll find a way to heaven. We’ll find a way.” — Janelle Monáe, “Americans”