REVIEW: Katy B – On A Mission

by Winston "Stone" Ford

Living in England you realize that music is almost entangled in the British DNA. It seems like babies emerge from the womb with a love of old soul and vintage house. Having that said, it’s not surprising to see someone like a 22 year old Adele outsing any woman of her generation or a 21 year old James Blake pining to go to Black Baptist churches during a recent visit to New Orleans. There is a passion and a motivation for music that us Americans just simply lack.

And this brings us to Katy B (nee Kathleen Brien). In America a 21 year old singer like herself would be fed pop lyrics over a generic Euro beat, completewith blonde hair an a Snoop Dogg collabo. However, Katy is not just another pretty young face. The BRIT School graduate (with a degree in Pop Music Studies at Goldsmith’s) has steeped herself into the grime and dubstep culture, working with such artists as DJ NG and Benga early in her career and building up her fanbase on Rinse.FM, the former London pirate radio station. The result is an album that sounds genuine from the first note, and does not look or sound trendy in any way. Not bad for an album that peaked at number 2 on the UK pop charts.

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Truth be told, this is not a dubstep album, and if you’re expecting Katy to jump on the latest trend you’re dead wrong. Actually, there are more nods to classic US House and UK 2-Step Garage than anything that pop music is currently after these days. Songs like “Movement,” and “Hard to Get,” sound like they could be played at the Paradise Garage in 1989. Even tracks like the Ms Dynamite graced “Lights On,” have that sound like they were crafted a decade later–during the 2-Step craze of the 2000s–than in 2011. Not to say there there aren’t traces of dubstep on the album–the Benga & Geeneus “On A Mission” is a dubstep hit–but the album is more well rounded and dare I say vintage than one would think. Even the track “Disappear,” nods to London’s acid jazz and R&B scene.

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The result of all of this is one of the most well rounded albums I’ve heard in a while. The production, helmed mainly by UK Funky producer Geeneus, is solid, and while Katy might not have the most powerful of voices in the game, she’s never overpowered by the instrumentals. For the most part, this album is what it’s supposed to be–a colleciton of floor fillers for the club. Don’t expect any poignant lyrics on this one.

Having that said, this is definitely not an album for America, and I truly wonder if we’ll be able to purchase this album in the States. In several interviews she stresses that she has no desire to promote her project over here and she turned down opportunities to record in LA under a major label to stick with her crew in London (whom she shouts out at the end, awards speech style). However, as a young, cute, pop-friendly face, Katy would be the ambassador that the UK scene has been looking for. Let’s see if that happens.

5 out of 5