The British pop debut of 2011
Of all the acts tipped to make waves in 2011, only [a]Katy B[/a] appears to be bulletproof. Fairly or no, the anointed likes of [a]Jessie J[/a], [a]James Blake[/a] and [a]Jamie Woon[/a] have all undergone backlashes of varying shapes and sizes since tastemakers hailed them as future idols way back in January. But somehow, the 21-year-old from Peckham just keeps on trucking.
It might not seem so weird, if the ammunition wasn’t already there for her to go down in a hail of harshly worded bullets. Like [a]Jessie J[/a], [b]Katy’s[/b] a graduate of the [b]BRIT School[/b] powerhouse, which in today’s posh-fearing climate is like telling people you offed your granny in exchange for a career. Second, her debut was originally hatched as a showcase for DJs running with urban-pirates-gone-legit [b]Rinse FM[/b], with [b]Katy’s[/b] inclusion sounding suspiciously like a deal-sweetener for the wider listening public.
Factor in the inclusion of [b]B’s[/b] star-making vocal from [b]Magnetic Man’s ‘Perfect Stranger’[/b] on the record, and it all adds up to a cynical exercise in money-driven pop careerism, right? Er, wrong: [b]‘On A Mission’[/b] is hands-down 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.
You’ll know the singles by now — [b]‘Katy On A Mission’’s[/b] thumping intro with [b]Benga’s[/b] chainsaw synths swimming unforgettably into view, the inspired, ragga-tinged [a]Ms Dynamite[/a] hook-up [b]‘Lights On’[/b], and the angelic yearning of [b]‘Broken Record’[/b]. But the album’s pleasures are far from ending there. [b]‘Power On Me’[/b] serves notice of the album’s killer intent, [b]Rinse[/b] boss [b]Geeneus[/b] lays on a noirish, garage backdrop as [b]Katy[/b] conjures the ghost of chart divas past like [b]Ce Ce Peniston[/b]: “Ooooh, does it make you feel good, knowing that you could have power on me?”
[b]‘Why You Always Here’[/b] brings the UK funky stuff she made her name with, while [b]‘Witches Brew’[/b] rides in on a strident electro beat and ricocheting, pinball synths. It’s undermined slightly by the lurch into hackneyed arena-rave on the chorus, but that’s a minor quibble at best.
[b]‘Go Away’’s[/b] a big dubstep number that’s dwarfed by its vaulting, R&B chorus, and [b]‘Movement’[/b] does the kind of cruising, leather-upholstered house Sophie Ellis-Bextor would have killed for during her post-[b]‘Groovejet’[/b] comedown. Meanwhile, [b]‘Easy Please Me’[/b] showcases [b]Katy’s[/b] strangely wholesome brand of lyrical sass, poking fun at the rude-boy mentality over a rakish dubstep beat and evil, ringtone synths (“These days I can’t find a man to please me/their lines are far too cheesy”).
It ends with the über-chill house of [b]‘Hard To Get’[/b], which is typical of the record’s open-hearted generosity – absurdly, brilliantly, [b]Katy[/b] even rounds out the track with big-ups to her family and friends and somehow you’re still laughing with her, not at her. But then again, that’s [b]‘On A Mission’[/b] all over: fuck-all pretension or focus-grouped attitudinising, buckets and buckets of tunes. What more could you possibly want?
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