To nobody's surprise, Janelle Monae delivered a showstopping performance on Sunday night. Armed with an army of dancers and a luxurious golden throne, Janelle Monae's 2018 BET Awards performance proved that the artist is always ready to make a statement. Flames flew and a black, white, and red stage flanked the artist as she performed her song "Django Jane," before phasing in to "Like That" to create an electric mash-up.
The audience was obviously into Monae's performance. Despite the fact that it took place toward the end of the show, even after a long night of awards, comedy sketches, red carpets, and performances from other artists, Monae managed to keep the energy going hours into the BET Awards. It was impossible not to get swept up in her infectious tunes, and though she took the stage after a long line of other talented rappers and singers, Monae's performance stood apart from the rest, and left a lasting impression.
Monae's performance also served as the perfect end to Pride Month — not only did her rainbow dress on the red carpet send a message of love and LGBT+ pride, but the themes of her music, particularly the songs she performed on Sunday, are often about embracing womanhood and living life as authentically and powerfully as you can.
The singer's fans were definitely into the BET performance, and Twitter was buzzing with praise for Monae throughout the night.
Monae has had a devoted following for years, but her latest album, Dirty Computer, in particular has resonated with listeners, allowing them a deeper look at Monae's life and feelings than they've been afforded in the past. Monae's performance wasn't the only time the spotlight was on her newest batch of songs — she was also nominated Sunday night for the BET Her award for "Django Jane."
Ashley C. Ford wrote in Allure that Monae's newest album "feels like a coming out in every sense of the word," and it definitely feels like Monae is being truer to herself than ever. Monae told Ford in an interview that though Dirty Computer is a personal project, it's also a reaction to the 2016 election, and the injustices she sees in the country in many different communities.
“I felt [Trump's election] was a direct attack on us, on black women, on women, on women’s rights, on the LGBTQIA community, on poor folks," Monae said in the interview linked above. "I felt like it was a direct attack saying, 'You’re not important. You’re not valuable and we’re going to make laws and regulations that make it official and make it legal for us to devalue you and treat you like second-class citizens or worse.' I got to the point where I stopped recording because I was just like, 'I’m going to make an angry album.'"
She's also made it clear that she doesn't think her level of celebrity means she's immune to the struggles facing many today. "You strip away the makeup, the costumes, and everything you know about Janelle Monáe the artist, and I’m still the African-American, queer woman who grew up with poor, working-class parents," she continued.
If she thinks art can empower the oppressed, she also appears to think it can change opinions. Monae told Rolling Stone that hopefully some people's minds and hearts will be changed through consuming pop culture. "The conversations might not happen with people in the position of power," she said. "But they can happen through a movie, they can happen through a song, they can happen through an album, they can happen through a speech on TV."
Monae's work continues to impress and surprise, and the artist herself seems reluctant to lock herself into one style or persona as she continues to come into her own. As evidenced by the reaction to Sunday night's BET performance, fans are more than willing to be along for her ride no matter where she takes them.