Katy B’s debut album ‘On A Mission’ is released today (4 April). You’ll find our album review here. But what has everyone else been saying about the record?
If there’s one thing that we learned from this year’s BBC Sound Of 2011 poll, it’s that it’s practically one damning indictment shy of the sex offenders register when it comes to ruining your career. Well, perhaps not quite that bad, but look at the evidence – James Blake’s debut suffered a bit of a backlash after the early fervent hype, Clare Maguire’s was one of the worst albums we’ve heard in years, and the layers of Jessie J’s purportedly unfuckwithable exterior are peeling away every time she sings that dread ‘Price Tag’ nonsense.
Katy B, then, must be thanking her lucky stars that she wasn’t eligible to get on the list, due to having had a single that had been in the top 20 prior to December 2010. Although the dubstep purists have accused her of commercializing the genre by taking it to the masses, there’s something to be said for her integrity as an artist that ‘On A Mission’ wasn’t rush released off the back of one single out of fear that she’d soon be yesterday’s news.
Nope, instead, Kathleen O’Brien’s debut album might focus on the fleetingness of nightclub romance, but its unrushed gestation has garnered results that look as though they’ll have longevity – especially if the clutch of fawning reviews that it’s received are anything to go by.
Our own Alex Denney has a few words for anyone who’s deriding her for being a bit too commercial. “‘On A Mission’ is hands-down the pop debut of the year, marking the arrival of a completely credible, fresh-faced, mischievous talent to draw the proverbial moustaches on pop’s gallery of gurning grotesques.” He goes on to praise its “fuck-all pretension or focus-grouped attitudinising, buckets and buckets of tunes. What more could you possibly want?”
According to The Observer’s Kitty Empire, a few more chart-bothering hits wouldn’t go amiss, commenting that “fans of [her] three landmark singles will be a little disappointed to learn that there is nothing on her debut album that beats them,” calling ‘Broken Record’ “the next best tune on here,” but slighting it for sharing “too much DNA with ‘Let Me Be Your Fantasy’, the 1994 hit by Baby D that brought junglist breakbeats out of the pirate radio stations and on to the pub jukeboxes.”
Ah, the old chestnut about popularizing niche genres again. Over on Drowned In Sound, Noel Gardner (who also moonlights for NME, journo-spying nerds) points out that the writing efforts of Skream, Benga and Artwork go down “a sight better” on Katy’s album than their own “rubbish 2010 debut.” He’s a fan of ‘Go Away’’s “sprightly mixture of twinkly, trancey melodies and shuffling whipcrack snares,” awarding the album eight smackers out of ten.
Katy’s seriously likable “every-girl-ness” has tickled Alexis Petridis’ fancy over at the Guardian too, commenting that “the something more Brien has is ordinariness. She’s pretty rather than gossip-mag glamorous, and on her debut album she scrupulously avoids the kind of melismatic over-singing that is the female pop star’s usual lot in a post-TV talent show world: the inevitable ballad, ‘Go Away’, isn’t much cop, but at least you can’t imagine her doing those I-really-mean-this hand gestures that people do on X Factor. It all fits perfectly with the music she makes, which, almost uniquely for pop music about clubbing, sounds like the work of someone’s who’s actually been to a club.” He’s given her four spanglers out of five.
Andrew Ryce over at Resident Advisor isn’t quite so enamoured of ‘On A Mission’, but considering he’s writing from a stable that specializes in electronic music, and whose readers would be quick to call KB a glorified session vocalist, he’s not exactly damning with faint praise. “On a Mission ultimately isn’t dubstep or Rinse FM ‘selling out’ but rather pop music with interesting production,” he claims, eventually – though not emphatically – calling her “a burgeoning star with some credible backing behind her, not some bandwagon-hopping opportunist.”
Rather than bedgrudging beatmongers, however, the biggest surprise of the reviews comes from Pitchfork, who rarely write about music of this ilk, and who are notoriously averse to what they term “British hype”. They called Everything Everything’s marvelous debut “another reason to doubt” it, and famously awarded Mumford & Sons’ ‘Sigh No More’ a paltry 2.1/10.
Not here – Nate Patrin’s review of ‘On A Mission’ sits pretty with a glowing 8.1 atop it, commenting that it “define[s] her as someone who can play off dubstep and funky basslines with a tone that drips with cool defiance, stings with melancholy, and still grabs at you when it’s being reduced to a skeletal echo.”
Saying what we’ve thought all along, he comments that “what puts ‘On A Mission’ over the top is Katy’s way of expressing herself with emotions that extend past “wooo, druuunk” into more nuanced and detailed relationships with booming systems and the people who flock to them.”
Well then. If we were Katy B, we’d definitely take this as due cause for champagne on the cornflakes tomorrow morning. But do you think of ‘On A Mission’?