Janelle Monáe

The young superstar builds to escape velocity on her new album.

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Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe Photograph: Marc Baptiste


“I began to dream about a world where every day was like anime and Broadway, where music fell from the sky and anything could happen,” Janelle Monáe informed the world in her first official record-company bio, circulated by Atlantic in 2008. Just five years later, the petite dynamo from Kansas City, Missouri, hasn’t just seen her dream come true, but has worked damn hard to make sure that it has. A seasoned fabulist at the tender age of 27, Monáe has secured her stardom at a bewildering speed, rocketing from promising upstart and SummerStage opening act to ubiquitous presence and Apollo Theater headliner.

Chalk up Monáe’s meteoric ascent to the tenacity and focus of the supremely ambitious and genuinely driven. The Electric Lady, her new LP, continues the loosely knit saga of Cindi Mayweather, an android cast in messianic terms. It’s grandiose science fiction, sure; still, you can’t miss tense undercurrents of isolation, discrimination and persecution swirling throughout Monáe’s concept. Following in the African-American escapist footsteps of Sun Ra and George Clinton, Monáe couches messages of deliverance in trappings so mad-funky fantastical that they disarm opposition—but what you notice most, hearing her go toe-to-toe with Prince, Miguel, Erykah Badu and Solange on The Electric Lady, is how effortless she makes it all seem.

Janelle Monáe plays the Apollo Theater Fri 18.

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  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Still quirky after all these years, Cyndi Lauper celebrates the 30th (!) anniversary of her smash debut, She’s So Unusual.

  1. Queens College, Kupferberg Center for the Arts 65-30 Kissena Blvd, at the Long Island Expw
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Eleanor Friedberger

The idiosyncratic indie-rock tale-spinner and erstwhile Fiery Furnace makes the CMJ rounds behind her latest, Personal Record.

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Meredith Graves

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