Katy B - On A Mission

An artist swimming within the ‘sound of now’, whilst offering something far more exciting in the long-term.

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The dilemma of what to do with an emerging female artist: do you a) package her songs, rid her of every ounce of personality she once had, engaging her in chart battles with will.i.am, placing her on a pedestal as one of the blandest artists of the last twelve months? This, people, is what’s happened to Jessie J and to a lesser extent, Clare Maguire. Someone, somewhere, has decided to sap the talent, the brevity of an artist’s songs, leaving them sellable but unlikeable, manufactured not meaningful. But Katy B has been left be, thankfully. She’s been given room in the recording studio, given space and time to apply her brewing ideas to a debut album seething with the kind of guts and range that’ll shake off the “female” tag and prop her up as a formidable artist in her own right. That’s option b), in case you didn’t notice. Option b) should pay off more than ‘Price Tag’’s royalty packet.

It surprises people when they learn that Katy Brien wasn’t all Rinse FM, with pirate radio roots. She’s one of many artists to have been given a helping hand in a setting full of equally aspiring youngsters. And yet, for all the criticism that’s often aimed at Brit School, you get the sense that it was merely one stepping stone for Katy B, instead of the be-all-and-end-all that it’s often viewed as by fame-hungry teens. ‘Katy On A Mission’ proves that the privileged can been guided towards wonderful things – it’s just about the most diverse, exciting sounding any Brit School graduate’s ever produced.

Neither Brit School nor a big label has absorbed the personality of Katy B, an attitude soaked into every song within ‘On A Mission’. The personal tribute that closes the album (the kind one should save for an album’s sleevenotes) might sound off-kilter but it’s another integral element of Katy’s introduction. Overall, it’s as good a statement of intent as there’s been for some time – the complete antithesis of many solo-artist releases from 2011 so far, and some 2010 releases to boot.

It kicks into gear with the aforementioned title-track, Brien inhaling “the fumes”, a frantic, bass-driven beat becomes grittier as the song progresses. You’re probably accustomed to it by now. It’s one of the best songs of 2010. The rest doesn’t quite live up to the pace-setter, although ‘Broken Record’ comes close; adding a dab of sensitivity to a record that otherwise prides itself on being brave, throwing all the punches; “so please don’t let me go, my baby”, begs Katy, proving both her versatility and the very strength of her voice at the same time. Occasionally that voice is drowned out by hectic drums and spacey, vacuous synths. But for the most part, Katy is at ease, pitted at the very top of the mix and in command.

‘On A Mission’ pays honour to both a dubby, 1am London sound and the very artist responsible for its gradual mainstreaming. Katy B is something of a revelation; an artist swimming within the ‘sound of now’ talk, whilst offering something far more exciting in the long-term. A mighty prospect, as proven by these twelve tracks.

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