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Janelle Monáe ft. Big Boi - 'Tightrope'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:45 UK time, Friday, 2 July 2010

Janelle Monae

We should've seen this coming. The signs were there for anyone to spot, and no-one did.

People have been mucking about with a hybrid of energised '60s soul and pop, fleet-footed '70s funk and startling '50s hair / clothing for quite some time now, almost as if the world was willing this thing to happen. The proportions of each ingredient may have been different from person to person - VV Brown is clearly not Rox, Rox is clearly not the Noisettes etc - but the main thrust is the same. These ladies are on a mission to plunder the past, to see if we can't find a new way to step into the future.

Well, it looks like the search is over. And the person who found what everyone was looking for is a hyperactive, kooky-quiffed, jumpy bandleader with brilliant hair, brilliant clothes, a brilliant voice and a bewilderingly brilliant album - 'The Archandroid'.

Plus the goodwill of Big Boi, and Diddy, and what appears to be everyone on the internet. How can she fail?

(Here's the video. Two words: Yow. Sers.)

Now I'm not here just to reiterate what the web-tastemakers are already saying. I mean that IS what is going to happen, but only because they're right. And here's why:

If you saw Stevie Wonder's jaw-dropping greatest hits set at Glastonbury and wondered why people don't bother to bring together huge gangs of great musicians to make ambitious, compelling songs any more, well Janelle does. She makes loads of them. Some of them are brittle, sugary funk like this - 'Get UR Freak On' as if played by Curtis Mayfield, basically - some of them sound like opera. Proper opera too, not just ballads with aria ambitions.

If you listened to 'Shutterbug', marvelled at Big Boi's vocal talents and wished he would spread them around a bit further, well have a gander at him modelling his flow around the bassline to this song. A bassline which is HARD TO RAP TO. It's a thing of wonder.

If you hear a lot of modern songs that chase the tiny tail of club-banging-autotuned-bragging-and-croaking-stuff-about-sexy-ladies-and-big-wallets and wonder if there's anything around which can provide some light relief, while still getting excited bodies to throw crazy shapes, 'Tightrope' is what you need. Even though it's about a million times faster than anything else and could cause whiplash injuries if not handled with care.

And if it IS too frantic for your tender sensibilities, then you'd be well advised to investigate the remix which features BOB (yes, him again) and Lupe Fiasco. It hits all the same spots, while being more spacious and woozy. Every palate is catered for.

Now, get out there and give thanks. The messiess has arrived!

Five starsDownload: Out now

BBC Music page

(Fraser McAlpine)

Planet Ill says: "A masterful blend of old school feel and contemporary delivery."

PinBoard says: "I haven't stopped listening to her album - classic material."

Music Nerdery says: "'Tightrope'...is filled with some of the funkiest rhythms and horns that I've heard since early Outkast albums."



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