Ian in Your Ear: The New Badu!

With Sade and Corinne Bailey Rae both putting out new albums in the same few-week radius and Erykah Badu putting the final, patchouli-scented touches on her March release, I had thought there's certainly enough mellow soul chanteuses to keep my iPod satisfied for the first half of the year.

But on Tuesday night, I found out there's certainly room for one more when my pal Marni Halpern from Epic Records brought me by the album release showcase for her new artist Nneka at New York City soul stop SOB's.

The striking Nigerian singer with a voice of bubbling, smooth wax laid down socially-conscious and powerful material from her slow bomb disc that's already making major waves overseas -- including the riveting single "Heartbeat," which she kicked off with a steady simmer and brought to a heavy, overflowing boil with her sturdy backing band. Couldn't take my eyes and ears off of her, and nor could anyone else in the room. Talk about killing me softly. She also performed the tune on The Late Show With David Letterman the next night.

Yes, there's so much meaty female soul power hitting the scene, but Nneka is a very welcome breath of fresh African air.

Check out her new disc Concrete Jungle and get a whif of "Heartbeat" by clicking here.