Stylish chanteuse Monáe visiting symphony 

click to enlarge R&B song stylist Janelle Monae appears with the San Francisco Symphony in a special gala concert. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • R&B song stylist Janelle Monae appears with the San Francisco Symphony in a special gala concert.

Cutting-edge neo-soul stylist Janelle Monáe, who dreamed of having an entire orchestra as the wind beneath her futuristic songwriting wings, is overjoyed to be performing with the San Francisco Symphony Thursday night. The concert will feature intricate, Fritz Lang-inspired tracks from her records “Metropolis: Suite 1 (The Chase)” and “The ArchAndroid,” and perhaps an upcoming third, “The Electric Lady” (already known for the new single “Q.U.E.E.N.” featuring Erykah Badu). Monáe, who typically wears a dress suit, will be perfectly attired for the occasion. Yet the Kansas City native may rethink her wardrobe, given that many will be wearing tuxedos. “I might have to wear something completely different and shocking!” she says.

How on earth did you hook up with our symphony?

They reached out to me, and I’m totally honored. I think they heard my music and they really loved the arrangements, and they wanted to collaborate. What we have cooked up is going to be a really big, incredible performance.

How did you wind up on “We Are Young,” that Grammy-winning fun. song from last year?

You’d have to ask them — they found me. But I was told that they were really big fans of “The ArchAndroid,” so they reached out two times to get me to be on “We Are Young.” And I was on tour and hella busy, but I listened to it and loved it and finally said yes.

Are you the voice of a talking animal in “Rio 2”?

Yes, I am. I can’t reveal the role just yet, but I can say that it’s very cool. And I was a big fan of the first “Rio.” I loved the story line, the beautiful animation, everything. But I also co-wrote the opening theme for the movie, which I’m really excited about.

Does your time-traveling Cindi Mayweather protagonist return in “The Electric Lady”?

Well, it definitely is a conceptual album, another suite in spirit and size, and a continuation of — and followup to — “The ArchAndroid.” But I really tried to bring even more innovation to it this time around. And I have guest appearances, as well, that are really incredible. For now, that’s all I can say.

What does “Q.U.E.E.N.” stand for?

It’s an acronym. It has a much deeper meaning. But I don’t want to reveal what the acronym is. Right now, I want people to just jam to it, to just dance.

You’ve just signed on as the new face for both Cover Girl and Sonos electronics. But it was strange to see you in that Sonos commercial, dancing without your trademark saddles on, in bare feet.

Ha! Well, that’s how I always am. If I have grass underneath my feet, I can’t resist it!


San Francisco Symphony with Janelle Monae
Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Tickets: $90 to $275
Contact: (415) 864-6000,
Note: The benefit concert is preceded by a 7 p.m. reception and a gala after party in City Hall.

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Tom Lanham

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