When there’s no host at the Oscars, you have to find someone who has the energy to set a solid tone for the evening. Fortunately, the Academy had the good sense to tap Janelle Monáe (with a spectacularly fabulous assist from Billy Porter) to get the show started. While it may be too early to make an official assessment, kicking off the show without a host and getting directly into the action is the exact move that this antiquated award show needs to settle into the 21st century.
Entering on a mock up of the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood stage, Monáe kicked off the night with a rendition of “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” paying homage to the film of the same name. From there, the actress launched into an incredible jazz number, featuring back up dancers representing a slew of this year’s biggest films, ranging from Joker to Little Women all the way back to Dolemite is My Name. Monáe was briefly joined on stage by Billy Porter who did a shortened version of “I’m Still Standing” alongside the actress and singer.
Soon after, she made her way into the audience, announcing,“I’m happy to be standing here as a black, queer artist telling stories. Happy Black history month.” Essentially, if you give Janelle Monáe a platform on a gigantic national stage, she’s going to do the absolute most with it. Watch the whole thing below.
Between the dancing tethereds from Us and the giant flower dress that Monáe wore from Midsommar, the opening number did everything short of bringing the whole cast of Toy Story 4 on stage. In short, every show should open up with Janelle Monáe. And just for posterity, keep Billy Porter close by, too.