An over-sugared combo of Katy and big names in grime, techno, hip-hop and d’n’b
There’s a grand tradition of pop stars reinvigorating their careers by working with whoever’s Hot Right Now in tough-edged club music. Diana Ross invented this ploy when, looking to reassert her relevance during the ’70s disco boom, she roped in Chic to write and produce the immortal ‘Upside Down’. Late ’80s Madonna ‘Vogue’-d into the house era with the help of Shep Pettibone; early ’00s Britney caught the urban-music wave with her Neptunes collab ‘Slave 4 U’; and, more recently, Biebs staged a spectacular comeback by hooking up with Diplo and Skrillex.
Peckham pop hero Katy B has always had one foot in the underground – previous producers include Benga, Joker and DJ Zinc – but she seemed to be headed in an increasingly mainstream direction, typified by the sweeping drama-pop of 2014’s huge ‘Crying For No Reason’ – a track far more Radio Two than Rinse FM. For her third album, however, Katy’s ventured deeper underground than ever before: The collabo list on ‘Honey’ runs to 21 names and features some of the most buzzworthy names in grime, techno, hip hop and drum’n’bass.
In practice, this marriage between bleeding-edge production and Katy’s lightweight-but-likeable vocals works best when her collaborators aren’t afraid to stay true to their original sounds. The trippy synths of ‘Honey’ and ‘Heavy’ – produced by Kaytranada and Mr Mitch respectively – help to lift otherwise forgettable songwriting, while ‘Calm Down’, Katy’s much discussed team-up with Four Tet and Floating Points, is a brilliant slice of weirdo disco.
‘Honey’ suffers when its producers smooth out their rougher edges to accommodate Katy’s chart-star status. Wilkinson fatally neuters drum’n’bass on ‘So Far Away’; Jamie Jones and Kate Simko deliver bland, flimsy house on ‘Dark Delirium’; while Major Lazer offer none of their usual gritty vividness on ‘Who Am I’. You’ve already heard the best track on ‘Honey’ – the KDA-produced ‘Turn The Music Louder (Rumble)’, which reached Number One last October. It’s an intoxicating blend of underground rawness and pure pop fizz – shame the rest of the album couldn’t quite live up to it.
Record label: Rinse, Virgin EMI
Release date: 22 Apr, 2016