Plan B, or Ben Drew, is a star. You might not have heard of him before, but let me assure you of one thing without any doubt whatsoever – this guy’s name will be well and truly etched upon the dark recesses of your musical memory well before 2010 is over and out.

One listen of album opener Love Goes Down will leave you open mouthed in shock. Since when did Drew metamorphose into Stevie Wonder? He’s a tad more falsetto, but still, the impact his voice has is incredible. Even the cheesy lyrics about undressing his girl don’t put you off. In conclusion: there’s a magical chemistry being weaved on Defamation that’s truly enviable.

Drew’s raps drag the album kicking and screaming back into the 21st century

Writing’s On The Wall shifts the vibe from deep-down-to-the-bowels lovin’ to the bittersweet jangly pop of sixties Motown. Stay Too Long could’ve completely destroyed the flow of Defamation. Its raw punky guitar riff intro and thundering drums risk jarring with Drew’s falsetto, but fortunately whirling vibes emanating from a Hammond organ manage to tie it all together. Just. His rapping also works surprisingly well and ruthlessly drags the whole album kicking and screaming back into the 21st century.

Traded In My Cigarettes is a future single with it’s delectable harmonies forming a stark contrast to heartfelt lyrics about the desperate realities of prison life. When Drew hits the stripped down chorus, everything comes together with such immaculate ease that it’s genuinely moving. Prayin’ sees Drew milking the gospel soul genre for all it’s worth, holding forth about the lord, the devil, hell and angels with surprising authority.

Merges different shades of R’n’B with devilish sophistication and class

Closing track What You Gonna Do is a rabble-rousing number that sees Banks facing his jury. It merges all the different shades of R’n’B on the album with a devilish level of sophistication and class. A brass section collides with grimey in-the-gutter rapping, drums thunder against a slick gospel choir and the whole thing comes together with startling fluidity and effortlessness.

Whereas your mum might have branded his debut Who Needs Actions When You’ve Got Words as gutter trash, she’ll probably end up nicking your copy of Plan B’s The Defamation Of Strickland Banks. And that’s where it’s true success really lies – in the fact that Plan B now has huge mass market appeal. And showing off his voice doesn’t quite mean he’s forgotten where he came from. Defamation is slick all over and when he sounds as good as this who would be mean enough to deny Drew a flirtation with the soul genre? It’s jammed with gorgeous, velvety numbers that are wrapped up in addictive, anthemic and incredibly intelligent R’n’B. This is one album that should be heading up this year’s list of Mercury Music prize nominees for sure.

For the full unedited review, visit Michelle Dhillon’s blog.

Plan B’s The Defamation Of Strickland Banks is released on all formats on 12 April 2010