The one-two punch of those movie roles — in “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures” — was her break out in 2016.
The Rolling Stone cover story interview — in which she declared herself pansexual and political — was her coming out in May.
And Janelle Monáe’s coming-out party is her current concert tour, which landed at an instantly sold-out State Theatre on Tuesday.
It was obvious from the reaction of the celebratory and worshipful crowd that Monáe has gone from cult hero to cultural hero. Sure, the people danced to her funky beats but they rallied with rabid enthusiasm to her words, both spoken and sung.
“Love me for who I am. I’m an American,” she sang loud and proud during “Americans,” one of the tracks on her acclaimed new album, “Dirty Computer.”
“We fight for women’s rights. We fight for minority rights. We fight for poor folks’ rights. We fight for immigrants rights,” she declared earlier, sounding like someone leading a rally. “And most of all we fight for love.”
Then she tore into “Cold War,” a propulsive rocker delivered with fire and fight.
Before “I Like That,” Monáe pointed out that the song was so “no one’s gonna be told they’re weird or be teased because of the music you like or the clothes you wear.”
Like her pal Prince (to whom she dedicated the show), the Kansas City-reared, Atlanta-based Monáe, 32, is a visionary. She may not play as many instruments as he did but she writes, arranges and produces her music, conceives the clothes, staging, videos and other visuals. She can dance with the best of them. And she’s a pretty potent singer, too.
As a performer, she’s not as smooth or spontaneous as Prince but she’s almost as exciting. Well, almost. And she’s way more political and outspoken.
And, she’s just as sexy and explicitly sexual, especially on material from “Dirty Computer,” which filled most of the 100-minute performance.
With her bass heavy, synth-driven sound, Monáe knows how to speak to her base. “Let the vagina have a monologue,” she proclaimed at the end of “Django Jane,” a rap tune delivered while she sat on a throne.
Then there was “Pynk,” her recent single that she performed wearing rose-colored glasses, a raspberry beret and oversized chaps designed like a woman’s pink privates, which is what the song, with its Taylor Swift pop echo, is all about.
Prince’s spirit and influence were all over the show — from the fashionista outfits to the flashy choreography to the funky sound. The end of “PrimeTime” featured the guitar outro to “Purple Rain” under purple lights. “Americans” also sported a Princely guitar riff reminiscent of “Let’s Go Crazy.” And “Make Me Feel” had echoes of the guitar work of “Kiss.”
“This place means something so special to me,” Monáe said in one of her few non-scripted moments. “Our hero, Prince.”
He had attended all four of her previous Twin Cities performances, dating back to 2010 at a sparsely filled Varsity Theater. Back then she came across as an alien escaped from Parliament-Funkadelic’s mother ship or David Bowie’s android daughter raised on Prince, James Brown and Michael Jackson.
Now she’s equally ambitious with the eclectic, message-filled “Dirty Computer.” Her stage, five musicians and four dancers were dressed in Monáe’s usual black-and-white motif. So was she, with lot of red accents, a series of caps and sunglasses.
She has a thin, Janet Jackson-like voice but she can wail, as she did on the gospelly ending of “Tightrope.” And she can dance, as she did with a robotic body and marionette-like legs on “Crazy, Classic, Life,” exaggerated movements on “Electric Lady” and Prince, MJ and JB moves on “Make Me Feel.”
In a word, Monáe was galvanizing.