Pop Shop Picks: Janelle Monae, John Newman, Michael Franti & More

Each Friday, Pop Shop will showcase a handful of tracks that have been burning up its speakers over the past week. These can include a brand-new song or a track that's been simmering for a minute; the only rule is that it's worth space in the Pop Shop!

"Q.U.E.E.N" (5:11)
Bad Boy Records

"Categorize me, I defy every label," Monae raps on her ecstatic new single, "Q.U.E.E.N." She speaks the truth: The first track from her upcoming sophomore album, "The Electric Lady," is a soulful art-funk exorcism, and her most dizzying track to date. "Am I a freak for getting down?" she croons early on over a Funkadelic-style guitar riff and spacey jazz-fusion synth doodles. Just as the groove sinks in, the track transforms into a quiet storm, and Monáe passes the mic to neo-soul diva Erykah Badu, who eases into a bath of milky strings and muted horns. Following awkward guest spots on tracks by the Flaming Lips and Flying Lotus, Badu sounds invigorated, giving the track an air of sexy mystery. But this is Monáe's show, and like the best parts of her 2010 debut, The ArchAndroid, this shape-shifting barnburner is built for the brain as much as the booty. -RYAN REED

"Low" (3:36)

Post-hardcore collective Sleeping With Sirens will have a bouncy new hit to play when it takes the main stage at the Vans Warped tour this summer. "Low," a quick-footed injection of venom, finds vocalist Kellin Quinn pushing back against detractors in between bouts of manic percussion and inviting "Whoa-oh-oh" vocal hooks. -JASON LIPSHUTZ

"I'm Alive (Life Sounds Like)" (3:53)
Capitol Records

Not even Franti's sun-dappled island swoon is immune to the recent EDM explosion: The first single from the reggae-toasting singer's new album, following his chart-busting The Sound of Sunshine, adds thump to his otherwise carefree breeze. Over a whistling hook, Franti preaches individuality -- but, ironically, he could use some more of that on this comeback single. -DAN HYMAN

"Love Me Again" (3:56)

Newman is best known for his vocal turns on the Rudimental tracks "Not Giving In" and "Feel The Love," but his new solo single "Love Me Again" is arguably more entrancing than those two (very good) features. The music video finds the soul singer-songwriter commanding a jubilant dance floor with a pop band backing him up; he looks great shimmying onstage, and sounds even better when the chorus kicks in. - JASON LIPSHUTZ

"The Way We Are" (4:12)

Pop Shop favorites Kate Boy continue to put out transfixing single ahead of their first U.S. shows and debut album, and following the stormy "Northern Lights" and icy "In Your Eyes," "The Way We Are" tumbles farther down the dark electro-pop rabbit hole that the Knife hollowed out last decade. Their latest song is more muscular and angry, and frankly, we can't wait to hear this Stockholm group get even more aggressive. - JASON LIPSHUTZ