Not to be confused with a German band who mined a far less confrontational hybrid of hip-hop and soulful pop in the mid 1990s, Plan B is the wildly ambitious British singer-rapper-actor-producer-aspiring filmmaker Ben Drew, whose 2006 album Who Needs Actions When You Got Words?, a record as nightmarish, epic, and unstoppable as a British Petroleum oil spill, elicited breathless comparisons to artists as varied as Eminem, Justin Timberlake, and Damien Rice. Like Eminem, Plan B knows how to tell a good story, but where Mr. Mathers’ rhymes are self-referential and reek of embellished memoir, Mr. Drew writes mostly bleak and bloody urban fictions centered around drug addicts, gang-bangers, and other assorted denizens of East London’s early-21st Century underworld.

His latest album is a sort of Northern Soul opera called The Defamation of Strickland Banks, and while the record has been lingering at the top of the British pop and soul charts since its release in April 2010, its second single “She Said”, four minutes of achingly tense but oh-so-old-school-groovy courtroom intrigue, has been storming the pop charts all over the mainland as well. Drew takes a cue from Mark Ronson’s pointedly organic strings-and-horns productions for Amy Winehouse, but here that treatment feels more about advancing a sinister plot – heightening the song’s tension – and less retro-for-retro’s sake. A big band underscores the song’s insistent syncopations and Drew’s pleading vocals like a musical judge and jury nodding along with the defense’s arguments while quietly forming their rationales for a guilty verdict they’d long since unanimously decided in their heads.

“She Said” may evoke nostalgia, but it doesn’t do so cheaply or lightly. Plan B may know Eminem’s name, but Strickland Banks suggests that Ben Drew has spent a lot more time with his parents’ Smokey Robinson records and that he’s never taken those Lenny Kravitz posters down from his bedroom wall. This is not backward looking music. This is, rather, almost surely what Maroon 5’s next album is going to sound like. Only not as good. (And I sorta like Maroon 5. Just sayin’.)

The song’s also supported by an instant classic of a video, and Drew is apparently working on a short film of the same title to accompany The Defamation of Strickland Banks which will likely incorporate the videos for record’s singles. If “She Said” is any indication of what the final product might look like, I’m totally in line for the DVD.