Who is Janelle Monae?
A pint-sized, extravagantly bequiffed dynamo from Atlanta who is destined to be the next big soul star to emerge from the United States. Monae is most obviously influenced by the funk, fancy footwork and showmanship of James Brown, but she also loves David Bowie, and indie rockers Of Montreal guest on her album.
Not your average soul popette then?
Definitely not. Monae has been given the kind of artistic leeway that few young singers are afforded any more to realise the major label debut of her dreams. The ArchAndroid is a concept album, influenced by the classic silent film Metropolis, in which Monae's alter ego is the benevolent alien robot Cindi Mayweather. She has likened the project to "an epic James Bond film in outer space" though it's not as kitsch as that might sound.
So much for the visual impetus, what about the music?
It's an ambitious undertaking, splicing contemporary R&B production with old-school funk, finger-popping retro soul and orchestrated interludes, which delivers an instant hit in the form of high-energy single Tightrope but deserves to be chewed over as a whole.
What are other people saying?
"A true visionary … one of the most important signings of my career" – Bad Boy label boss Sean "P Diddy" Combs
"A unique voice that has elements of Lauryn Hill, Prince and Kelis" – Attitude
Where can I hear more? www.myspace.com/janellemonae
The ArchAndroid is released by Bad Boy/Atlantic Records on 12 July