Album: Janelle Monae, The ArchAndroid (Bad Boy/Atlantic)

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The Independent Culture

An artist to make Gaga curse her own abject banality, 24-year-old Kansas girl Monae has found her way to Oz.

Her persona is Ziggy Stardust by way of Fred Astaire; her voice is part Lauryn Hill, part Julie London, while her sound exists on a transcendentally barmy plane where soul-funk meets garage-rock, rap meets cabaret and "Sex Machine" meets "Moon River". Try to digest its 18 tracks in one sitting at your peril: indeed, there's enough pop virtuosity to have you feasting until Christmas.