When Katy Brien first popped into the mainstream, extolling the boom-shake-the-room virtues of sub bass on debut single Katy On A Mission, her greatest asset was her relatability. Though not the most characterful singer, this Brit school graduate was thoroughly credible as a girl-next-door cub clubber.
KATY B: LITTLE RED
STAR RATING: * *
Accompanying debut album On A Mission was more than just an efficient deep house album, it was an atmospheric nightlife chronicle in the lyrical vein of The Streets’ A Grand Don’t Come For Free or Arctic Monkeys’ Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. Except that Katy’s night didn’t end in drug-induced paranoia but with her dancing on without a care even when the club lights went up.
Follow-up Little Red is clearly supposed to showcase her maturation from wide-eyed teenager to worldly-wise independent woman, with more personal, experienced lyrics. Instead, following the crossover rave pop success of her fellow Londoners Disclosure, Chase & Status and Rudimental, it is simply another streamlined club pop album, less varied and infectious than its playful predecessor.
With right hand man Geeneus still at the controls, opening track Next Thing is another of Katy’s “little adventures around London”, a catchy clubbers’ odyssey with Katy and her crew hitting up a number of establishments in search of kicks. But the following 5am is the first of too many generic appeals for love on the dancefloor which suffer for their lack of narrative, culminating in rave banger Emotions, which is entirely lacking in the sensation it describes.
There are a couple of exceptions to the trend. Sapphire Blue classily conflates sexual longing and the sensory immersion of the dancefloor in one glacial, gliding track. And despite its insipid title, I Like You is among the more compelling numbers on the album, with a heady backing, insistent build and Katy in siren mode.
She enlists the very sultry Jessie Ware to plead her case on Aaliyah, which is simply Dolly Parton’s Jolene relocated to a club environment: “Aaliyah please don’t take my man, even though you know that you can.” But where Dolly sounded devastated at the mercy of her love rival, Katy intones “why can’t he play a song for me?” without expression. Her lack of vocal licks is generally refreshing but also means that she has nothing on her palette to colour token ballad Crying For No Reason.
Review by Fiona Shepherd