‘Little Red’ album review
For fans of: Ellie Goulding, Disclosure, Sky Ferreira
Singles to download: ‘Aaliyah,’ ‘Crying for No Reason,’ ‘Emotions’
From the very first song of her sophomore effort “Little Red,” Katy B makes it clear that she has shed the funkier, more dubstep-like elements that defined her first album. Those influences are still there, but just as most British pop music has, her own sound has turned towards the sound of Disclosure and its infectious but smooth house music. It is more of a natural evolution than a sudden change, though, and it mostly works for the artist. The new Katy B is one with supreme confidence in her vocals and does not shy away from including more ballads and mid-tempo tracks. She clearly wants to be seen as more than just a dance-floor artist and deserves legitimate pop stardom.
The first few tracks all deliver her promising new sound, and they are all insanely catchy, too. “Aaliyah,” a song that previously appeared in a seven-minute incarnation on an earlier EP, is here cut down to a more appropriate length and is my personal favorite on the album. It’s an absolute dream of a track, and the blending of Katy B’s vocals with those of her fellow U.K. songstress Jessie Ware is hypnotic and intriguing. Her lead single, “5 AM,” is an up-tempo tune with a spellbinding beat and the awesome line that is “I need…a little loving like Valium.” The grimiest of the songs on the album is “I Like You.” The pulsing beat, matched with the loop of “I like you a little bit” lyrics, perfectly captures the sound and confusion of a late night dance-floor mistake.
Surprisingly, the most impressive song of the opening half of the album is not one of these infectious dance songs but instead “Crying for No Reason,” an electro-ballad that is the best showcase for Katy B’s vocals in her entire career. Her voice is emotional and alluring, hitting the high notes with ease normally reserved for Adele or Beyonce. Unsurprisingly, it was another radio success for the artist despite being nearly completely different from her previous single offerings.
After those euphoric opening five songs, it’s hard to sustain her energy and quality over another seven tracks, and a few too many of the songs sound like filler, some even bordering on elevator music levels of snooze-worthiness. Perhaps this is just a mistake on the part of Katy B for packing the first half of the album with such brilliant songs, but it kept the album from being truly amazing. However, even the missteps have something interesting to offer. Relatively forgettable track “Everything” is a clearer example of the disco influence on Katy B’s style; “Play” is a duet with rising electronic star Sampha, who has previously collaborated with SBTRKT and Drake.
The album is worth a listen for the opening tracks alone, however, and the lesser tracks are still intriguing. Katy B is still on a mission, and she has moved closer to achieving success as something more than just an electronic singer. Her vocals have never been better, and her new sound is yet another British success in the genre. If she can garner the crossover success that her compatriots like Disclosure and Ellie Goulding already have, it’ll make the radio a much more interesting thing to listen to.