Earlier this month, at New York City’s Roseland Ballroom, we caught up with chart-topping heartthrob Bruno Mars and cult cosmonaut Janelle Monáe as they kicked off their 24-date Hooligans In Wondaland tour.
For a pair of blossoming stars in their early-20s, their two performances couldn’t have been any more different — Monáe and her band approximating a frenetic retrofuture mosh pit and Mars passionately strumming a guitar in the key of screeching girls. But both artists share a deep bond as friends and pop vanguards blurring the lines between liquid R&B, blustery rock, and vintage soul. SPIN chatted with the pair backstage and found out what they joke about, why their Grammy performance almost fell apart, and what living legend was seen sneaking around the show.
SPIN: You closed the first show of the tour. Congrats! What were you nervous about?BRUNO MARS: Well, this was also the first show where we had production values. With lights and everything. We just wanted to make sure the cues were on.
JANELLE MONÁE: I don’t really get nervous once I’m on the stage. I knew Mick Jagger was here… I met him at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Gala. [Vogue editor] Anna Wintour introduced me to him. I told him I was performing and he said, “I wanna come. Gimme four tickets. I love you.” That was cool.
SPIN: When was the last time you two really hung out? As friends?
MARS: We hung out all day today, actually! We’re always picking at each other. She’s always commentating on me. She said, “Bruno, man, ever since I started tweeting about you, all your fans have been coming at me saying, “You’re so lucky to hang out with Bruno.”
MONÁE: He laughs, I love laughing; he jokes, I love teasing. He’s like a little brother. Everyone wants us to see us date. It’s so funny.
SPIN: Who wants to see you two date?
MONÁE: Name it.
What do you two bond over besides music?
MARS: I love wearing her dresses every now and then [laughs].
SPIN: Did you guys spent a lot of time together before the tour?
MARS: In rehearsal for the Grammys. That’s where I found out that she’s really funny. Today we were doing an interview. She’s so passionate about her music, so she’s just going in deep about… how much she’s a fan of Lauryn Hill because of her religious beliefs and how she puts it in music. And the guy asks her, “So what do you do in your spare time?” And she said she breastfeeds baby seals. It just came out of nowhere [laughs]. Hell, yeah, Janelle!
SPIN: What was the scariest thing about performing together at the Grammys?
MONÁE: It was a big moment. I prayed to be on the Grammys.
MARS: It was the fucking Grammys! The scariest thing for me was that I lost my voice two days before. We had a party to celebrate our year. It was a great party, everyone came out. We were at some little bar and you can’t tell me not to have fun. We’re playing, so we’re doing covers all night — Celine Dion to Led Zeppelin — just me and my band. [Janelle] was smart, she said, “Bruno, I gotta save my voice.” I said [screaming], “No you don’t! Come on! Back in blaaack!” I’m over there screaming and I lost my voice. That was very stressful to me knowing I was gonna go perform on live TV and I didn’t have full control over my instrument. I kinda messed up [laughs].
SPIN: What was the best moment of tonight’s show?
MONÁE: When I teased the audience. I gave ’em a little bit and I took it right back. I love being in control… And it’s a beautiful feeling when they don’t mind being controlled.
MARS: It’s funny, when they scream, it’s hard for me to take it seriously. I got a few love songs on my record, talking about being intimate. It’s hard for me to be serious. I can’t really rub oil on me and go all the way with it [laughs]. I hear some screams and I laugh to myself. I always get a kick out of it. I’m three feet tall, basically. What the hell are you girls screaming at?