Janelle Monae Electrifies SNL Stage

The Electric Lady herself made her proper Saturday Night Live debut last night, and everyone who caught it is still looking to reacquaint themselves with gravity, 'cause girl floored the world with her moonwalking and skyrocketing scales. A bit spastic, a touch unhinged, and every ounce the textbook definition of what a late night TV music performance should embody, Monae was a veritable force of vocal might whose rendition of her latest singles provided a jolt of energy stronger than a case of Red Bull at the close of a long night out.

See also: Miley Cyrus Redeems Herself on SNL

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Live: Janelle Monáe, TV On The Radio, And Toro Y Moi Break Boundaries At Afro-Punk

Janelle Monáe.
Afro-Punk Festival
Commodore Barry Park
Sunday, August 26

Better than: Sitting at home, waiting for Breaking Bad to start.

Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Bo Diddley were some of the original architects of rock and roll. Jimi Hendrix pushed it forward in the late '60s. Then came Prince. And Bad Brains. And Living Colour. And the Black Rock Coalition. Plus, what's more rock than "Rock Box"? Or "Maggot Brain"? Making the same claim is New York's annual Afro-Punk Festival, which wrapped its eighth staging on Sunday night. Over two consecutive nights in Fort Greene's Commodore Barry Park, the festival showcased an array of black artists who were punk in spirit if not always in musical aesthetic.

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Radio Hits One: fun.'s "We Are Young" Brings Indie Pop To The Super Bowl And The Hot 100

Lindsey Byrnes
Last week Billboard published the Hot 100 chart covering the post-Super Bowl week, and unsurprisingly the most notable leap on the chart was made by a song featured on the telecast. The surprise was that it wasn't "Give Me All Your Luvin'," Madonna's new single, performed during her halftime show performance with the help of some controversial hand gestures from critical darling M.I.A. Instead, "We Are Young" by the New York-based band fun. (with the help of Pazz & Jop-beloved Janelle Monáe) rocketed up 38 spots to No. 3 on the Hot 100 after being featured in a Super Bowl commercial for the Chevy Sonic. (Madge's latest settled for a piddling No. 10 in its second week on the charts.)

Since being released in September, "We Are Young," the lead single from the band's new album Some Nights, has seen a steady rise in profile. Its Hot 100 peak comes primarily from sales—the song topped the Digital Sales chart with nearly 300,000 units sold—but it had already sold more units that that before the Super Bowl ad aired. So far, it's only made airplay waves on rock radio, rising to a new peak of No. 6 on the Alternative Songs chart last week. But it's hard to imagine that the song won't quickly cross over to pop radio in the same way as Foster The People's "Pumped Up Kicks," which peaked at No. 3 last year.

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Cee Lo Green, Santigold, And Janelle Monáe To Headline Afro-Punk Festival

The seventh annual Afro-Punk Festival will take place at Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn at the end of August (the 27th and 28th, to be precise), and the just-announced lineup looks pretty incredible: Cee Lo Green will headline, and the once-again-active Santigold, the always-spellbinding Janelle Monáe, the Yes In My Backyard alums Cerebral Ballzy, and the shape-shifting Philadelphia soul singer Res will also be on the bill. As will Fishbone! There'll also be food from more than 20 trucks courtesy of the Afro-Punk Bites&Beats Food Truck Festival, and a BMX competition. The lineup as of now is after the jump; the full schedule will be released closer to showtime.

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Live: Bruno Mars And Janelle Monáe Dance It Out At Roseland

The Hooligans in Wondaland Tour
Bruno Mars/Janelle Monáe w/Plan B
Wednesday, May 4

Better than: Waiting for "Grenade" to come on the radio.

The co-headlining tour starring sweet-voiced android Janelle Monáe and uxorious pop crooner Bruno Mars kicked off at Roseland last night, and why these two haven't been touring together for the past few months is a mystery; they're an evenly matched pair as far as inspiration sources (James Brown, pop art), sonics, and performing chops go, although the way they employ those source points comes off quite differently. Monae is the besuited professional, powering her way through her set, covering a canvas in red and blue paint (yet seemingly leaving her crisp white shirt spotless), leading her sprawling band through time changes and dance moves; Mars is the always-grinning pal-slash-crush, full of profuse thanks for everyone in attendance, proclaiming his devotion over and over through song.

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Janelle Monáe And Bruno Mars Are Starting Their Joint Tour At Roseland

Longtime SOTC readers will recall our undying obsession with the Janelle Monáe live experience -- as bewitching as her critic-beloved 2010 full-length debut, The ArchAndroid, might have been, you haven't truly "gotten" her until you've seen her onstage, howling and pogoing and (climactically) stage-diving, just as she did Sunday night during her Grammy-telecast performance with Bruno Mars and the magnificently be-monocled B.o.B. Now Bruno and Janelle are banding together for a joint tour, dubbed Hooligans in Wondaland, that will apparently start in NYC, with a May 4 date at Roseland. Tix should be on sale late next week; in the meantime, relive that Grammy moment below, and appreciate anew the fact that, as our Grammy live-bloggers rightfully noted, Janelle bodies it.

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Rob Harvilla's Top 10 Singles of 2010

cee lo fuck you too.jpg
Not every great song this year was released by Katy Perry. From a snarling avant-electro NPR lecture to a haunted-house posse cut to a ludicrously profane viral sensation, here are 10 examples. "Teenage Dream" might still be better than all of these, though. Better get this started before I change my mind.

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Was 2010 The Best Year For Music Ever? The Final Chapter: Katy Perry Is A Bad Feminist But We Are All Vulnerable Somehow

This has been Sound of the City's year-in-review rock-critic roundtable, an amiable ongoing conversation between five prominent Voice critics: Rob Harvilla, Zach Baron, Sean Fennessey, Maura Johnston, and Rich Juzwiak. We're sad to see it go.

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Sleigh Bells frontlady Alexis Krauss, you deserved your own Dr. Luke co-write this year. Photo by Rebecca Smeyne.
My friends.

What might I be sick of 12 months from now? Rich, are you teeing up that "I Hate Katy Perry" piece that Rob was agitating for a few days ago? Even if you're not, let me (briefly) take the bait. To me, the Christian singer-turned-Betty Boopster is a shining example of how pop feminism has pretty much failed -- her career arc since "I Kissed A Girl" first blessed my ears a mere 19 months ago reminds me more than anything of those sex bloggers who decide to settle down and blog about their husbands and/or their offspring, and who are adamantly "MY LIFE CHOICES ARE THE BEST LIFE CHOICES" about every decision they make. She's kissing girls... but waking up with a boyfriend in the video where she bleats about her exploits! She's subjecting her cleavage to meek little Elmo... then telling anyone who'll listen that her husband's last name will take the place of her own! She's singing an empowerment anthem about being a California gurl [sic, RIP Alex]... but the perpetually leering Snoop Dogg is the song's true star! I could go on.

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Live: Of Montreal, Janelle Monae, and a Pair of Manpigs Take Over Terminal 5

all photos by Rebecca Smeyne
The new King and Queen of the misfit teens.

Of Montreal, Janelle Monae
Terminal 5
Saturday, September 18

Better than: Any music currently being made by actual teenage girls.

In a characteristically intellectual/saucy dis on his new album False Priest, Of Montreal frontman Kevin Barnes dismisses someone (perhaps himself) with a pat, "You fetishize the archetype." The traditional alt-rock archetype obviously concerns the weird, sensitive youngster who feels alienated from their peers, sinks into the world of left-of-center art, and emerges with a burning desire to Prove Them All Wrong. It's pretty rare that this model works out so that a 30-something Georgia-based indie rocker turns himself into the sassiest teenage girl performing in pop music today, but Of Montreal are special in a lot of ways.

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Saluting Janelle Monae's Ethereal Beauty at Her Free Concert In Bryant Park Today

To be fair, they are some pretty incredible ankles. Chief r&b space demon Janelle Monae took stage at Bryant Park a few hours ago, playing out in the sunshine as part of a Levi's promotion that involved donating clothes to Goodwill in exchange for a new, gratis pair of Curve ID jeans, whatever they are. Perhaps needless to say, the combination of a summer Friday, an outdoor venue, a free show, and stacks of giveaway jeans brought out both the best and worst in the New Yorkers who stopped by. Many complained about staff and security; others stuck to guessing when exactly Monae's elaborate pompadour would self-destruct. It looks like it sort of held on though? You couldn't say the same about the audience. Apparently the sight of Janelle Monae under exquisite noon sunlight is just impossible for humans to take:

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