Album: Janelle Monae, The Electric Lady (Atlantic)

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The Independent Culture

Following her 2010 album, The ArchAndroid, was always going to be tricky. In The Electric Lady, Janelle Monae continues to occupy her high-concept cyber-world as Cindi Mayweather, a droid alter-ego from the year 2719. But she also, thankfully, knows how to write a jam. Top collaborators help: there are slick, tasty duos with Prince, Erykah Badu and Solange.

It's another sprawling, lengthy record, taking in sugar-coated rock'n'roll, high-pop harmonies, Eighties power-ballads, fierce raps, disco-funk and Hollywood crooning – though this magpie approach feels less fresh this time. Expect more straightforward, big-vocal, soul-funk numbers, and fewer immediate hits. But compared with most R&B records, Monae is still lightyears ahead.