BY JACK LITTLE
2011 was Katy B’s year. After dominating the charts with dance floor anthem “Katy on a Mission” she went on to release her critically acclaimed, and Mercury Prize nominated debut On a Mission, a fantastically diverse record incorporating pop, dubstep, jungle, and house. It could be argued that this record paved the way for some of the big resurgence of UK’s Dance/Pop that’s surfaced in the past few years, such as Disclosure or Jessie Ware.
But I sadly can’t say the same about her second effort, Little Red. Little Red’s instrumentals are a lot less varied and watered down than its predecessor, with the dance element being retracted in favour of far more radio friendly pop, leaving us with a bland, middle of the road sound. This isn’t to say that there aren’t some tracks that stand out against the rest of the insipid beats. Too lull you into a false sense of security, the album’s opener, “Next Thing” instantly explodes into a house/break beat banger, and is followed by lead single “5AM” one of the few tracks to balance house and pop, managing to be anthemic without falling into the trap of sounding corny as hell.
This is where the album promptly goes downhill. The next tack, “Aaliyah” has such a generic dance pop melody that I was half expecting Tinchy Stryder to pop up, but instead of that we have a Jessie Ware feature that might as well have not happened at all, she sounds as bored as ma$e and her verse is over as soon as it started. Thankfully she made use of her other feature, UK’s rising new crooner Sampha, who also takes up producing on the track “Play”, a spacey and upbeat pop number. Another non-ignorable problem with this LP is the song writing. Dance music isn’t known for its deep lyrics with layered meanings, but we were expecting a little more from an artist who attended the BRIT school than what Katy B offers on Little Red. Little Red’s lyrics consist of a bunch of clichés to the point of farce. A prime example is the second single Crying for No Reason a gentle piano song that evolves into a Lady Gaga-esque pop ballad. When going full pop you would expect the lyrics to be the focal point, but instead they’re vapid as fuck: “Crying for no reason, feel the tears roll down/I felt strong but am I breaking now?”
Ultimately this album is destined for chart success, as it does merit a high level of accessibility as a pop record. But to obtain this accessibility, she has compromised most of what made her so damn promising in the first place.
Highlights: 5AM – Next Thing