Katy's mission accomplished

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Old 18-Apr-2011
Katy's mission accomplished

Commercial dance music isn't often a hive of longevity, but no one enjoys a career as brief as the featured vocalist.

They're the expendables of pop, the singer or rapper plucked from the shadows by a producer, heading straight back to those shadows once their single starts to slide down the charts.

Clearly it requires something more than vocal talent and looks to escape the fate of the featured vocalist, and whatever it is, 21-year-old Kathleen Brien appears to have it.

She began life as Baby Katy, guesting on DJ NG's Ministry of Sound-released single Tell Me (What It Is), yet seems to have ended up as a pop star in her own right as Katy B. Her debut solo single, Katy on a Mission, reached No 5 in the UK; its follow-up, Lights Out, went one place better.


Not only has she been able to make a debut album, but expectations of it are high, not least because of the way Katy on a Mission succeeded in finding the middle-ground between dubstep credibility and massive chart success.

It turned out all you needed to do was stick an immense, undeniable pop song over the top of the half-speed beats and wobbling bass after all.

Katy on her debut album 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. Lights On finds her still dancing among an ever-dwindling crowd: "Some others at the cloakroom/ Some others out the door."

Katy on a Mission is a song about seeking anonymity in front of the big speakers: "I sink into the tune," she sings, perfectly capturing what you might call the lost-in-the-moment-moment, the communal disembodiment of the dancefloor.

Witches Brew and Broken Record seem to have arrived at their own sui generis point actually closer to early '90s breakbeat hardcore than anything else organically, rather than as a result of market research. Nothing about it appears forced.

That's perhaps because Witches Brew and Broken Record are, like most of what's here, fantastic pop songs: hook-laden, melodically rich and crisply written, they don't hang about.

In fact, the only thing that does is the closing Hard to Get, which features Katy B thanking everybody; after a while, you suspect even the most verbose Oscar winner would tell her to get on with it.

It's the kind of thing you might do if you thought your fame might be as fleeting as that of most featured vocalists, that this was your only chance. Rather cheeringly, Katy on a Mission suggests that won't be the case at all.

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