Katy B - Little Red

What Katy Did Next.

Label: Columbia

Rating:

With the Mercury nominee’s soundbites about ‘Little Red’ all hinting towards the M word – maturity – and growing up, it’s a relief to find that Katy B meant it literally: songs about being twenty-three instead of about being eighteen. Yes, it seems Kathleen Anne Brien has gone from being on a mission to having something of a quarter-life crisis, and facing, in her own words, “those questions you ask of yourself as an adult”.

As a result, ‘Little Red’ is an extension of and also natural progression from her 2011 debut, a record that felt authentic, not just because Katy’s prior guest vocalist credentials on the club scene meant its dabbling in UK garage, funky, dubstep and R&B came off as the real deal, but because it was written from her life as she lived it. This time around, she delivers more of the same: tracks for the club with a sense of restraint and melancholy, as well as a poppy accessibility. The key difference is the action has mainly moved from the outer world of the dancefloor to the inner world of emotions.
This is heard most clearly on ‘Crying For No Reason’, a heart-wrenching electro-ballad, inspired by a friend’s breakdown, that goes for the jugular and finds it. Elsewhere, the tempo gets kicked up a few notches, like the playful ‘5am’, with its pulsing beat and gently insistent jabs of synth building to a heady rush which Katy presides over like a true dancefloor diva, her voice gliding smooth and hypnotically. ‘I Like You’ is perfection – simple, subtle and seductive, haunted by the ghost of Aaliyah in its sultry chorus hook, and pushed along by a sensual, throbbing beat; it’s effortlessly cool and ultra-sexy.

Perhaps recognising the late Aaliyah had that in bucketloads, Katy teams up with Jessie Ware on a track named for the singer, first heard on 2012’s ‘Danger EP’, an understated slinky house number, that conjures her as an intangible nightclub temptress transfixing through her mystical aura: ‘Aaliyah please, this is green envy / why must you taunt me girl?’. Ironically, by comparing herself to Aaliyah and supposedly coming up short, Katy reminds us through her elegant delivery and minimal song arrangements, that she is her natural heir, without it ever coming off as her trying to fill the void left by the late singer. If ‘On A Mission’ was a statement of youthful intent, then ‘Little Red’ is What Katy Did Next – growing in depth as an artist without ever sacrificing style.

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