Katy B: Little Red

The sound is there, but the energy is missing.

Katy B

Little Red

Label: Rinse/Columbia
US Release Date: 2014-02-11
UK Release Date: 2014-02-10
Artist website

Fame and success has a way of completely changing a person and their music. Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus went off the rails, Shia LaBeouf isn't even famous anymore, Kanye West has pushed the boundaries of what hip hop means and sounds like, and others, like Katy B, manage to not stray too far from their roots. With her second album, Little Red Katy B manages to produce an effort that has her sticking to her roots, the clubs of South and East London, garage, dubstep and brilliant production.

"5AM" and "Aaliyah" are two of the best songs on the album. "5AM" captures the essence and feel of raving hard till the early hours of the morning perfectly. It's not surprising, since Katy B knows the club and rave scene so well, that she would be able to create a song so perfectly in tune with the feelings and emotions you feel during a night of revelry and debauchery. "Aaliyah" is a song that brings Dolly Parton's "Jolene" into the 21st century club scene and features the first of two South Londoners that make an appearance on the album, the phenomenal Jessie Ware. These songs were offered up to the public ear early on, with Aaliyah being released for free back in 2012. It's already been said that musical styles change and perhaps these songs were written when Katy B was immersed in the rave scene in the same way as she was when she released On A Mission. The rest of the album seems to suggest that the clubbing scene isn't the only scene Katy B knows how to address. She can take a step back from the dance floor and enter into the worlds of love, heartbreak and growing up, but by doing so she often loses the fire and oomph.

The exception to that is the token ballad "Crying For No Reason". It opens with the cliche tinkling sounds of the piano, enough to let anyone know that the subject is breakups and sadness, in case the title hadn't already given that away. The trademark synth comes into force after a minute or so, putting the Katy B spin on a song which could easily be made into a tear jerker by the likes of Emeli Sande or Adele. Because of this, and it's catchiness, it easily has the potential to be incredibly well received by fans and new listeners alike.

During a night out, there comes a point when you just want to go home. The fun of raving in a sweaty basement under strobe lights has worn off. Your feet hurt and you realise you have a life to lead the next day. When that moment hits you, the bubble of fun inevitably bursts and you drop out of the zone. This is sadly what seems to happen with Little Red. There reaches a point, somewhere in the middle of the album, where each song just rolls into the next and the album has lost its ability to truly retain its audience. It fades away and sounds tired.

The second feature on the album is fellow Londoner, Sampha. His international breakthrough came after he was featured on two songs on Canadian singer Drake's latest album. Prior to this, he worked extensively with Jessie Ware, producing some gorgeous duets, such as "Valentine". The difference in quality and intensity between those collaborations and his work with Katy B on "Play" is enough to disappoint. The song is flat, and the potential chemistry never quite appears.

When Katy B released her first album it gave the music scene a burst of energy. This sort of music hadn't been mainstream in a long time and Katy B was right at the heart of it. In the last three years the scene has inevitably changed, and what was so exciting in 2011 is being done to death by everyone from world class DJs, to young teenagers in their bedrooms. Unfortunately Little Red doesn't bring anything new or fresh to the table. It's classic Katy B, and it's good, but there's something missing. While there's glimpses of the magic that listeners heard oozing through On A Mission it doesn't pervade Little Red. The album isn't a let down, and in comparison to the current albums out right now it's definitely of a higher quality, but I, for one, was expecting more.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.