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Janelle Monae visits Detroit to hype new album

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

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OAK PARK -- Janelle Monae made a sales call to the Detroit area on Wednesday, Aug. 28.

But this was no stiff or businesslike affair.

The R&B singer's visit to Collective Studios in Oak Park was part party, part concert as Monae previewed seven songs from her highly anticipated sophomore album, "The Electric Lady" -- due out Sept. 10 -- for an invitation-only crowd of music industry and media figures. Sporting a stylish black-and-white tuxedo and a bowler-style hat, Monae offered between-song commentary and joined the attendees in dancing up a storm, barefoot, on top of rolls of sod imported from Atlanta, where she's based and where she recorded most of the album at her Wondaland Art Studio.

The guests, meanwhile, were given a pair of socks -- one black, one white -- to put on while they were in the room, which was filled with maple butter-scented candles.

Monae also sang along live to several of the songs, including the title track (which features Solange Knowles), "Prime Time" (a duet with Miguel)," "Victory," "Dance Apocalyptic" and "What an Experience."

"I like to look at myself -- and I humbly say this -- as an experience architect," Monae explained on her tour bus afterwards. "That means it is my job to craft the experience and get it right." And, she told the crowd in the, studio, that "experience" came with an ulterior motive.

"I need y'all's support," acknowledged Monae, who appeared at a Detroit nightclub later in the evening. "I come here humbly asking for support...I've done awards shows. I've done a lot of amazing things, but it's these moments right here that we have together, where I can touch you, you can touch me, we can sweat together, we can do all these amazing things. I'll never forget my night here in Detroit."

"The Electric Lady" also features guest appearances by Erykah Badu, on the first single "Q.U.E.E.N.," Prince ("Givin' Em What They Love") and Esperanza Spalding ("Dorothy Dandridge Eyes"). The album is the follow-up to 2010's critically acclaimed "The ArchAndroid," which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Album. Monae, 27, kicks off a North American tour on Oct. 13 and said she's "working on" scheduling a show in Detroit.

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