Janelle Monáe, "The ArchAndroid"
As her cyborg alter-ego Cindi Mayweather, eccentric 24-year-old singer Janelle Monáe embarks on a sprawling journey of futuristic pop marked with the wonderment of a Pixar epic on her latest album, "The ArchAndroid." With a vast array of musical styles, Monáe and her band echo the pop-funk of Michael Jackson ("Locked Inside") and Prince (on the Of Montreal-assisted "Make the Bus"). Even the timelessness of Debussy's "Clair de Lune" is finessed into the lilting piano ballad "Say You'll Go." Throughout the set, sweeping and prancing strings add beauty and drama to a vibrant storyline that centers on love. "You melt my wings and call it fun," Monáe sings in a heartbroken British accent on the pulsating "Faster." Manipulating her voice as much as she does her sound, Monáe widens the cast of characters and pushes along the self-explorative narrative. "The ArchAndroid" could be the stuff of stage or screen, 3-D without the annoying glasses. --Devin Chanda