When Melisa Young, aka Kid Sister, raps the line “Ain’t nobody out there making shit, quite like me, quite like this” on Big N Bad, it’s difficult not to question her bravado. Back in 2007 when she first emerged with the excellent Pro Nails (featuring Kanye West, who went on to sign her), her particular brand of hip-hop/R&B would have appeared fresh and exciting, but the whole ‘hip-house’ (mixing elements of dance music with R&B) thing has now been hijacked by everyone from The Black Eyed Peas to Taio Cruz.
The delay between her sudden emergence and the almost apologetic release of a debut that’s already been and gone in her native America has been put down, variously, to a desire for perfection and surgery on an injured elbow. Whatever the reason, you can’t help but feel she’s missed the boat and, for the most part, that’s a real shame. Much of Ultraviolet zips along on a delirious haze of ravey synths, old skool beats and Young’s laid back vocal style.
Opener Right Hand Hi sets the tone, with up and coming producers the Swedish House Mafia creating a riot of screeching sirens, gun clicks and speaker-rattling bass that also features an infectious chorus and a ridiculous breakdown. It’s some start and for most of the opening seven tracks the pace and quality remain high; Life On TV is an old skool throwback, Young spitting verses like Salt-n-Pepa at their most playful, whilst Let Me Bang 2009 pares the production down to a bed of glistening keyboard flourishes. One of the best tracks is Daydreaming (so good it appears three times), which opens like a distant cousin of Robyn‘s With Every Heartbeat before unfurling into a proper arms-aloft dancefloor filler.
As with most modern day R&B, however, there’s no cohesion to the album, with the myriad producers creating a sense of a piece of work trying to be all things to all people. Switchboard tries too hard to cater for the blog fraternity and ends up sounding like a bad M.I.A. cover, whilst Estelle‘s strangely mumbled performance on Step aims for a pop market but dilutes any character Young manages to inject. Things aren’t helped by the fact that Young is a proficient rapper, but little more. In fact, when West appears on Pro Nails – still amazing, three years on – it’s the first time you notice the words being said.
Still, all things considered, there’s much to recommend a debut album that has been hamstrung by record label delays and massively bad timing. It’s taken a while to get here, but Ultraviolet finally introduces a fresh talent who may not have too much to say just yet, but what’s going on in the background goes some way to making up for such deficiencies.