Our Favorite Things: Janelle Monáe Debuts ‘The Electric Lady’ In DC

SoulBounce is celebrating all month long, but Tuesday, August 13th marked SoulBounce’s actual sixth birthaversary. We didn’t throw a big shindig to mark the occasion, but we did have the opportunity to attend an exclusive event that night to honor one of our all-time SoulBounce faves Janelle Monáe, which was all the celebration we needed. Accompanied by Risikat “Kat” Okedeyi of LiL SoSo Productions, we went to the Washington, DC listening party for Janelle’s upcoming album The Electric Lady (in stores September 10th). The party, which was sponsored by Atlantic Records and CoverGirl, was held at the Gibson Guitar Showroom in Chinatown, and it was an experience like no other. We had such a good time, and there was so much to take in and explore, that Kat suggested we each share our favorite things about the night.

Butta: Hospitality Sweet
When I arrived at the building and was greeted with a warm hello from a bespectacled young lady dressed in a black tuxedo print t-shirt, I knew that I was getting ready to experience something special. She checked my name off of the list, and I was ushered into the elevator with other friendly faces by another similarly decked out young man who told us all to enjoy ourselves. That hospitality from the door was the perfect introduction to the evening.

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Kat: Kick Off Your Shoes and Sit a Spell
Walking into the space and being greeted by a hostess holding a basket of socks was kind of cool. I asked the young woman why we were being given socks and she replied, “Janelle wants everyone to take off their shoes and walk around on the grass.” She was referring to the artificial grass carpet that almost took up the length of performance area. I’m an urban hippie. No shoes is always a good look. I was immediately intrigued and excited all at the same time.

Butta: Welcome To Wondaland
This was my first time attending an event at the Gibson Guitar Showroom so I didn’t know what to expect. But not only was the space the perfect size for an intimate listening party with natural light filling the room before sunset, but the way that the showroom was decorated and set up made for easy mixing and mingling with tons of unique conversation starters sprinkled throughout the space. From the grand piano at the front of the room to the Janelle portrait being painted by Cierra Lynn (whose work I am now stanning for) at the back, it was utterly lovely. I don’t know what the showroom normally looks like, but it looked like Wondaland on this night.

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Kat: I Spy With My Little Eye
Aesthetics are very important to me and this event did not disappoint. The art, a variety of takes on the Monáe aesthetic, candles and fresh cut flowers were a very nice touch, alongside Monáe’s signature black and white color scheme. It all came together quite nicely. I also appreciated the way branding flowed seamlessly with the set up and was especially geeked over CoverGirl’s dessert bar its display of confections and cosmetics. I love a good nail polish, so the giveaways were an extra treat.

Butta: Highly Favored
Two words: Party favors! Janelle’s custom napkins with “The Electric Lady” stamped on them and the plastic cups with her photo were every single thing. I wanted to get a few cups as souvenirs from the occasion, but my purse was too small and it was already filled with other goodies I collected over the course of the night from the CoverGirl Clean Whipped Dessert Bar. They had me at “complimentary.” 

Kat: Eat Up
The food! KitchenCray was the caterer and they outdid themselves. My favorites were the fish tacos and the handmade chocolate and salt covered caramels. Odd combo. I know. (*katshrug*)

Butta: Drink Up
The signature cocktail of the night was, of course, The Electric Lady. This concoction of Ciroc Peach, Simply Lemonade, cranberry juice and a splash of club soda was beyond tasty. Sipping this drink from the uber-cute Janelle cups made it feel like we were big kids drinking grown folks punch. This cocktail will be recreated at SBHQ.

Kat: The Grass Is Always Greener On My Side
I have to go back to the grass carpet. It was laid out in such a way that many of us weren’t sure if it was alright to post up on it. We were invited to walk on the grass, but I really wanted to sit. When Monáe came out I duckwalked onto the grass towards the front and pretended to take a picture. I guess I opened the floodgate, because when I looked back a rush of people were following my lead. At that point I plopped down and had a front row, albeit in semi-lotus position, seat to the brilliance of The Electric Lady herself.

Butta: The Electric Lady
The room came to a hush before Ms. Monáe’s grand entrance to raucous applause. The suited-up songstress shared that The Electric Lady was born from a dream and a painting of a woman that she created. She’s very passionate about the songs that comprise Suites IV and V of her ongoing musical saga, and that came across as she spoke about each selection that she hand-picked to play for us. Janelle got the party started with “Q.U.E.E.N.” before setting said party off with “Electric Lady” that caused everyone who was still seated to get up and get down with her. She only previewed a handful of songs, including standouts “Primetime” with Miguel and the break-up song “We Were Rock n’ Roll,” but they were enough to have me and everyone else in attendance wide open and ready for September 10th to get here already.

Kat: Maniac On The Floor
A listening party like no other, Janelle had the entire room bouncing around like a sleepover singalong. She sang along out loud, danced through the crowd and jumped on a couch. We even started the electric slide together. Whew! But seriously, what I loved most was her present presence. She was there, in the room taking it all in. Her energy was locked in on the crowd the moment she took off her shades and shoes. I could tell she was enjoying herself as we went through the tracks and that she quite often dances around by herself, even if people are looking. Too many artists these days fail to realize that fan support is very much a choice. The lack of humility and grace and be a turn off for sure, but as I suspected, Monáe is keenly aware of her gifts and has no intention of squandering any opportunity to give thanks for the love and support. She wins on so many levels and in the end, so do we. I’m looking forward to more plus-one adventures!

[Photos: Keith Estep]

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