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Janelle Monae and the San Francisco Symphony 

When: Thu., May 16, 8 p.m. 2013
Price: $150-$340

After her set this year at Coachella, The Guardian called Janelle Monáe "a master of showmanship" -- which isn't an exaggeration, even according to those who saw the R&B/funk artist early on in her career. When her debut album, The ArchAndroid, came out in 2010, few knew Monáe's name, but she had, in fact, been cultivating her Afro-futurist persona since her 2007 concept EP, Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), which helped get her signed to Diddy's Bad Boy Records. The ArchAndroid's seventy minutes and eighteen tracksspanned a variety of moods and genres (e.g., the hits "Tightrope," a hyperactive pop track featuring rapper Big Boi, and "Cold War," a stark emotional ballad), and critics hailed her as an innovator among the likes of Michael Jackson (one of her idols). Her sophomore album, The Electric Lady, doesn't come out until the fall, but if its first soulful single, "Q.U.E.E.N." (featuring the queen bee herself, Erykah Badu), is any indication, it will be as wholly unique an experience as The ArchAndroid. Monáe's appearance at the San Francisco Symphony (201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco) Spring Gala on Thursday, May 16, will offer a rare opportunity to hear material from her new album, plus orchestral arrangements of her music specially written for the performance. 8 p.m., $150, $340. SFSymphony.org

— Whitney Phaneuf

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