On A Mission
, April 4th, 2011 12:20
The release of debut single 'Katy on a Mission' has, whether through marketing ploy or gaffe, heaped expectation on Katy B's shoulders for an album that would sit as another milestone on the ever-evolving map of dubstep. This, as well as her background at both Rinse FM and the prestigious BRIT Art School that spawned Kate Nash and Jamie Woon, has sharpened expectation to the nth degree.
It is to her credit that, on what could have been an string of perfectly competent 'On a Mission' replicas, her debut LP instead sees Katy B moulding her own cogent identity as a singer-songwriter, whose songs just so happen to have infectious beats to power them along. Prime examples are the house and funky grooves on 'Power on Me' and 'Why You Always Here', surely destined to follow in the footsteps of 'Lights On' to become future floor fillers. These leftfield textures never stand as a distraction from the songs themselves, which sit perfectly happily in a mainstream pop context. No more is this more applicable than on 'Easy Please Me', a track that could easily stand among Ciara or Brandy's best work.
Perhaps what is most laudable about Katy B is that there is no self-conscious middle finger or 'fuck you' that often accompanies the 'angry' tracks on mainstream albums by the likes of Lily Allen or Jessie J. Instead, the lyrical content seems defiantly heartfelt, loaded with personality, each song exuding a deep, vivid tenderness. Her lyrics are delivered through a honeyed voice that belies the fast tempo of the tracks, with subject matter firmly in R&B territory, ranging from love and relationships to the perennial favourite of an evocation of the clubbing experience.
Even the more down tempo 'Go Away' manages to invert the classic mid-album ballad with a half-time dubstep beat that serves as a foundation to allow Katy the opportunity to really display her vocal dexterity. The one sour note is the filler 'Disappear', with the melodies lost in comparison to elsewhere, and a languid beat that seems not to know where it's going. But even this weak moment serves to push the producer into the background, leaving the spotlight on her autotune-free voice.
Unafraid to dabble with rave-influenced synths in 'Witches Brew', occasional drum & bass and jungle in 'Broken Record' and 'Perfect Stranger' and trumpets on last track 'Hard To Get', could this experimentation be working merely as a failsafe to give her album more staying power simply by dint of a pebbledash approach? The cynics will say yes, but in my mind it is purely just a sign of an artist confident and willing enough to test and execute a diverse range of different sounds. Mission accomplished, then.