American singer-songwriter Janelle Monae on Sunday delivered a jaunty, surrealist performance to open the Oscars, including a shout out to the year’s women directors snubbed in the nominations.
Monae kicked off the ceremony with a song-and-dance production number based on her 2010 song “Come Alive,” lyrically rewritten to reference the Oscars and some of the year’s top films.
“We celebrate all the women who directed phenomenal films and I’m so proud to stand here as a black, queer artist, telling stories,” she said.
Monae sported a Mister Rogers-style red cardigan and black trousers to sing the theme from the children’s television show that inspired this year’s film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” starring Tom Hanks.
She then swapped the sweater for a wearable floral bouquet inspired by the folk horror film “Midsommar,” and danced with a troupe of Jokers wearing the comic book villain’s signature suit.
“Happy Black History month,” she belted out during the performance that had the star-studded audience vibing to the music before rising to its feet.
“We’re going to get low. We’re going to take it to the underground.”
“Pose” star Billy Porter then rocked the stage in a glittering gold cape, red jumpsuit and sparkling platform boots as he sang Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” before a mirrored grand piano that belonged to Liberace.
It was a quirky opening number for the Academy Awards ceremony, which is often accused of triggering yawns.
Monae’s ode to women and minorities stood in stark contrast to the gala itself, which in the nominations process more or less lived up to its reputation as a night celebrating Hollywood’s white men.
The show’s second performance saw Idina Menzel grace the stage for a rendition of “Into the Unknown” from Disney’s animated feature “Frozen II.”
Menzel was joined by a coterie of singers who play Queen Elsa in foreign versions of the film and delivered verses of the song in a variety of languages.