It’s been a while breaking through, but now it’s here – and Katy B‘s album is very much worth the wait. The Peckham songstress has built up her reputation on the back of a strong series of guest appearances within dubstep and UK bass music, firstly with DJ NG but more recently and prominently with Magnetic Man and their single Perfect Stranger.
One of the Magnetics, Benga, has already returned the favour in kind with some brilliant production for Katy On A Mission. Most of the work is done by Geeneus and Zinc, who fuse different styles and beats cleverly. This record, though, is all about Katy B’s talent as a songwriter and vocalist.
The voice itself could easily sing the front page of the South London Press and have you clamouring for more. Such is her way with projecting emotion she can bring over her frustrations about men and their cheesy chat up lines, showing off boundless energy as “I keep on dancing with the lights on”, and a remarkable vocal on Go Away that runs the gamut of feelings without ever resorting to showboating. It’s the closest thing on the album to a down tempo track, and is superbly executed.
The lyrics are also brilliantly written, at times extremely profound while at others throwing off the shackles for a night’s partying. They also give off an edginess that proves difficult to pin down and which keeps the tension up in songs such as Streetwise where “you’re holding every breath you take”. Witches Brew is a brilliantly heady concoction, while in the sweet vulnerability of her vocal in Power On Me there is nonetheless a darker undertone, as she questions, “does it make you feel good, knowing that you could have power on me?”
Tying up all these elements is a real pop sensibility, a structure that allows the album its ebb and flow between outright party tracks and moments of genuine self awareness. In between Ms B is happy putting down the odd substandard example of the male species, and sometimes you can practically see her arms flung wide in despair. The beats make their mark too, of course, cleverly evading attempts to pin them down to a single genre. Safe to say that fans of dubstep, garage and UK bass music will have plenty to float their boats here.
Perhaps inevitably the singles make the biggest mark, with Katy On A Mission an early highpoint, the secret weapon Lights On cleverly saved until nearer the end, Ms Dynamite releasing some pent-up energy with a raw, terrier-like rap. There is, commendably very little in the way of filler, the standard of songwriting and beat making kept incredibly high from start to finish, the complete lack of pretence and posturing evident as she thanks her producers in the closing Hard To Get.
From this irrepressible debut, we can deduce that Katy B is a genuinely exciting UK urban vocal talent, the like of which we haven’t seen in some time. Get her bug in your bass bin, for this could well be the sound of the summer.