Aretha Franklin

Album: The Black Keys, Brothers, (V2)

The Black Keys, it seems, are currently everyone's favourite blue-eyed blues band, occupying the spot previously occupied by The White Stripes, until Jack White dived into prog-rock and Goth diversification with The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather respectively. And unlike most white boys trespassing on blues territory, this duo even seem to have won over the hearts of their black peers – which is just as well, since few young black Americans appear inclined to pursue the blues path themselves. Damon Dash picked them to provide the grooves over which his hip-hop chums rapped for the Blakroc project, on which Pharoahe Monche and RZA conceded, in a textbook back-handed compliment, "fuck the white boys, The Black Keys got so much soul."

Album: Angelique Kidjo, Õÿö (Razor & Tie/Proper)

Õÿö is Beninese diva Angelique Kidjo's celebration of her roots and influences, from early icons such as Miriam Makeba and the Togolese singer Bella Bellow to Santana – whose "Samba Pa Ti" brought the Saturday-night dances of her teenage years to romantic conclusions – and soul and funk legends such as Otis Redding, Curtis Mayfield, Aretha Franklin and James Brown.

The pop star: VV Brown

On paper, 24-year-old VV Brown certainly has the makings of a star – beauty, a big voice and, crucially, the backing of a major record label. Add to that her penchant for retro-soul and success on a huge scale seems a foregone conclusion.

Pervis Jackson: Detroit Spinners bass vocalist

The fine art of blending vocals in a group is one that was beautifully exemplified by the line-up of the Detroit Spinners. The group's foundation was the bass singing of Pervis Jackson, to which was added Henry Fambrough's baritone and the tenor voices of Bobbie Smith and Billy Henderson. These four were the group's mainstays, but additional fifth members who came and went included Philippe Wynne, whose distinctive falsetto and high tenor graced several hits between 1972 and 1977.

Howard's end: he's too happy for a recession

Howard Brown, the jolly, bespectacled singing star of the Halifax television ads, has been dropped by his employers after an internal review recommended that the bank's future marketing campaigns should adopt a more serious tone.