Janelle Monáe featuring Big Boi, "Tightrope"

82 Billboard Rating

To say that Janelle Monáe merges R&B, funk and rock'n'roll isn't enough-she's simply ahead of her time. Monáe's new single, "Tightrope," is a genre-blasting, cinematic fantasy that finds the Atlanta artist seesawing between retro and futuristic and remaining fearless throughout. Lyrical stutters ("T-t-t-tightrope") cascade over nimble drums, horns and tambourines that recall vintage soul records-"We gettin' funky on the scene," she pronounces with swagger. While Big Boi drops a signature stoic verse, Monáe captures the raucous energy of her live performances by bringing the listener into her world, saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, the funkiest horn section in the 'tropolis!" With her Judy Garland-like gaze and James Brown-esque showmanship, Monáe has plenty of allure to back up her sound, which is in full force on her May-slated debut album, "The ArchAndroid."-Michael Menachem