Singer Janelle Monáe’s been getting some buzz for a while now, but she still doesn’t have a proper album out. That will change soon (when her debut CD, ArchAndroid, comes out in May), and she was in Chicago this week for two shows at Schubas. I was there on the first night, Monday (March 29), and after seeing Monáe’s dynamic, dazzling performance, I think it’s safe to say she’s going to be playing at much bigger venues in the future.
Monáe is known for singing with OutKast, but her performance Monday was more soul and pop than hip-hop. She wowed me with her strong voice and her sense of drama. I also noticed some interesting almost orchestral flourishes in the song arrangements. She and her backing musicians came out onto the stage in druid robes for a Spinal Tap-esque entrance, with a fog machine going, and the whole show had an air of spectacle about it, despite being at little ol’ Schubas. (Opening act The 54 also delivered a lively set of hard-rocking music.)