From “UK Dubstep Princess” to Queen in Her Own Right: Katy B takes charge with “Little Red”
By: Elle Hoffman, Editor-In-Chief
I love a good pop record.
Now before you roll your eyes, and X out the window, or expect a shining review of “Prism” (which you will never find here because that album is garbage – sorry, I’m not sorry) – let me explain.
I love a good quality, inventive, pop record. Something with pop sensibility but still bearing an artistic stamp. Basically, something I can drunk dance to without being embarrassed about my song choice the next morning (who needs another video of themselves dancing to “I Kissed a Girl” NOT.ME. I’m trying to be gainfully employed soon). As I told my friend the other day, the UK does “artisanal pop” better than America could ever hope to, and Katy B is a fine example of this.
Formerly known as the UK’s “Dubstep Princess,” Katy shows a lot of growth on this record. The Dub influence is more or less gone – eschewed in favor of the hollow production favored by house and garage artists. Katy sounds a lot more grown up on this album and with more inventive songwriting and production she has become an artist in her own right.
Since the production is a bit crowded at times, the album is more 90s throwback than Disclosure-influenced like many pop artists have become recently. I think this is a good thing. The speed and attitude of the dance track fits Katy’s voice and attitude better than the sparser sound of other artists.
One example of an artist in contrast would be her friend, and fellow Londoner, Jesse Ware (who is so amazing and should be much, much more popular in the states), who she does a collabo with on this album. The song, “Aaliyah,” (RIP St. Aaliyah) is a meeting of both women’s aesthetics and lets them both shine in an agreeable middle ground. While this might be my favorite song on the album, when compared to some of the other show stoppers on Little Red it is obvious that Katy is much more comfortable on the dance floor than in an environment with more space.
The move to more hollow beats and innovative production helps Katy shine and sets her apart. Her voice is so strong and on point that she actually sounds like what lesser pop singers are engineered to sound like. She’s basically so good at pop music that she sounds generic without playing outside of the box. Because of the new production angle mixed with her vocals, even the more generic songs like “Crying for No Reason” become serious earworms.
The best example of Katy’s sound perfected is probably “Wicked Love.” While the lyrics are relatively predictable, the song has a hollow, ominous sound palette and some expert production. There’s also an ever present James Blake style drone that finishes off the song – ace production, bravo, 10/10.
In “Little Red” she takes a mix of traditional pop ideals, electronic production, and darker themes and tones and turns them into a unique brand of pop.
TL;DR: Congrats Katy, you broke the rules, grew up and it payed off big.
Elle is a senior journalism student from The Ozarks by way of Texas. She wants to work in arts criticism and commentary, but her dream job is as a basic cable talking head (look for her on “I Heart the ‘10’s”). Her other role at KCOU is as co-host of Anglophiles Anonymous. Her American Dream is owning an ice maker and a corgi – dream big Millennials!