Katy B - Little Red
- Dave Bowes
- 3 February 2014
A follow-up that marks Katy B's continuing development, despite some patchy moments
On a Mission was the 2011 debut album of BRIT-school graduate Kathleen Brien, and it put in some considerable legwork to define the Peckham-born pop singer as something of a new diva in the British chart-dance world, albeit one without pretension, and with more everywoman charm than might normally be associated with the term. Last year’s excellent 'Danger' EP already showed sign of her maturation: the beats were less rigid, moving away from straight floorfillers towards songs that fitted more closely with Ms Brien’s earthy delivery. Little Red continues this progression with just under 20 songs; some should still keep feet on the floor, while others work equally well for more sedate activities like having a cuppa or a good cry.
First single ‘5am’ and the Jessie Ware-accompanied ‘Aaliyah’ are perhaps the most recognisable inclusions. Brien's tales of clubland drama invigorated by woofer-stressing beats and twitchy production show that just as her range has grown, so has her reserve. These songs are less brash in their approach than, say, ‘Lights On’ (though the pounding ‘I Like You’ does bring the energy levels back up somewhat); they chart the development of Brien from enthusiastic clubber to a more emotionally diverse figure, an aspect which could really be said of this album as a whole. There’s a concerted effort to balance earnest songwriting with energetic accessibility, which is where some issues begin to arise.
Put simply, it’s a difficult balance to maintain, and Brien often leans too far in one direction or the other. The overly heartfelt ‘Crying For No Reason’ rings slightly hollow, while ‘Tumbling Down’ seems underwhelming in comparison to the album’s stronger cuts. A few throwaway moments aside, though, Little Red is still a triumph. It shows there’s more to Katy B than being 'the face of dubstep', and it marks her continuing development both as a vocalist and a lyricist. In other words, don’t be surprised if you’re hearing these songs a lot in the next few months.