Katy B – 'Little Red' album review
Dance floor melancholy and rave-pop perfection add up to a storming follow-up by the Rinse FM-backed vocalist
Fri Jan 31 2014
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
Looking back, 2010 was Rinse FM’s year. After 16 years, they finally won themselves an FM licence, while Skream and Benga evolved their Rinse show into a dubstep supergroup, pillaged the Top 20 and bagged a weekly Radio One gig.
Their crowing glory, however, was the result of putting vocals by Brixton girl Katy B on top of an album that was originally meant to be a showcase album for Rinse’s production roster. Validated by Ivor Novello awards, a Mercury Music Prize nomination and Top Ten singles, ‘On a Mission’ inadvertently created a new dance-pop template for the twenty-first century. For a while, it seemed as though Ms B could fart into a microphone and Rinse could turn it into a Top Ten hit.
Three years have passed, and Katy B’s second album sounds less triumphant. ‘Little Red’ is shot through with melancholy – and it’s not always to the credit of the music. For all the whizzy digi-production, launch single ‘Crying for No Reason’ has the waft of a Celine Dion ballad about it, while ‘All My Lovin’ is like a less fun repurposing of Tinie Tempah’s ‘Pass Out’, with a chorus that centres on the repeated yodelling of the word ‘Tony’. There’s also a definite head-slapping moment in the decision to leave the joyous, MJ Cole-produced old-school garage swagger of ‘Blue Eyes’ off the official release (it’s only available on the deluxe edition).
But boy, does ‘Little Red’ manage to scale the heights of rave-pop perfection at points. ‘I Like You’ is a bruising digi-funk workout overlaid with a tale of dance floor flirtation. ‘Tumbling Down’ is all crystalline synth melodies and a pounding four-to-the-floor drop that makes you want to stamp your foot against the ground like you’re perpetrating a cockroach massacre. And in the way that stand-out track ‘Everything’ strafes a hooky R&B vocal with urgent hi-hat hiss and moody deep house groove, you could be listening to Destiny’s Child produced by Julio Bashmore. This, you suspect, may be the sound of Katy B repositioning the future-pop goalposts yet again.
It’s far from the knockabout party larks of ‘On a Mission’, but despite drawing on sadness for its dancefloor energy, ‘Little Red’ continues to fizz over with fresh ideas for urban-pop. Maybe 2014 will be Rinse’s year too?
Listen to 'Little Red' on Spotify
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Watch the video for 'Crying for No Reason'
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