REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha
'Dubstep diva' Katy B makes a play for the stars & almost succeeds.
Katy B - Little Red (10/02/14 via Columbia Records)Katy B emerged a few years ago as the successor to the 'disco diva' mantle vacated since the early 90's acid house scene. Her smooth, (though admittedly quite generic) vocals underpinned a debut album ('On A Mission') of melodically rich dance-pop that didn't quite set the world alight but at least made enough of a lasting impression for miss B (christened Kathleen Anne Brien) to get a second chance. Though recent single 'Crying For No Reason' would suggest she's used this second chance to follow Adele into the world of lighters aloft, heartache balladry, 'Little Red' is an album more at home on the dance floor than on the dance floor at home. The opening salvo of 'Next Thing' and '5AM' bring to mind the vapid but fun early dance numbers of the mid nineties with superfluous lyrics (“that beat's so sick, that tunes so ill”), glistening synths and insistent beats. Indeed, where On A Mission delighted in the very modern worlds of UK garage, dub-step and r&b, 'Little Red' instead chooses to mine its best bits from a little further back and is all the better for it. Some of the first albums urban sparseness is reimagined in the Jessie Ware featuring 'Aaliyah' and 'Tumbling Down', but this is a record with more to prove and as such there's simply more going on. 'I Like You' for example is a giddy mess of voices and energy and 'All My Lovin' takes takes a simple hip-hop beat and spins it into a surprisingly sinister song that almost sounds like Destiny's Child covering Massive Attack (that's a good thing). The one thing that the record lacks is any kind of cohesive lyrical theme. There are far too many listless cliches and metaphors for comfort and there's the cynical overriding feeling that many of the words might have been written by committee. This is a shame as miss B is obviously capable of something more profound. 'Sapphire Blue' for example is not only the albums best track, but reveals a real penchant for abstract imagery (“You shine bright like sapphire, blue, like emerald green, like me next to you”). It's a stunning song. Then there are the 'bangers' though, the superfluous floor-fillers. To a certain extent, Little Red spends a little too much of its luxurious run time attempting to position Katy B as the next in a long of 'Rhianna' clones and that's a shame as she's capable of so much more. When she's given the chance to stretch her wings though the results can be exceptional. The closing 'Still' sums this sentiment up quite succinctly. The backwards beats and gorgeous melancholy of the melody combine to create one of the most touching pop songs of the year and give Katy real licence to show off her chops. 'Little Red' posits itself as both a segway between the more 'niche' appeal of 'On A Mission' and the potential chart dominance of the future and in doing so comes across as something of a compromise. It's like the album is trying to appeal to both Radio 1 and Radio 2 listeners and it just might do that, but personally I'm waiting on album 3.