Mainstream pop has been appropriating the rhythms and structures of dance music more and more overtly in recent years. Whether it be the proliferation of "club rap," electro-house-aping pop music or the increasing infiltration of various bass music styles into UK pop music (James Blake, Jamie Woon, Magnetic Man), it's happening. As grime artists make waves in UK charts and dubstep pokes its head out of the peripheries, UK funky and garage remain as potentially pop as they've ever been. London radio station and underground dance music empire Rinse FM know this, and they've got a formidable bit of chart dynamite in the form of young singer Katy O'Brien, who first made the rounds with respectable producers like Geeneus, Zinc and NG.
"Katy on a Mission" was her solo debut. Produced by Benga, it peaked at a respectable number five in the UK pop charts, and it's the star of her debut album, which is a mishmash of underground UK styles with a hefty dose of Katy slapped on top. Backed by a production dream team of Geeneus, Zinc and Benga, On a Mission brings the sound of Rinse to the masses, and as you might expect it's a little watered down but still just potent enough. For the most part, her songs are well-written; the few awkward moments like "Go Away" are balanced out by confident displays of pop prowess like "Power on Me" and "Perfect Stranger."
The album's most colourful moments mix canned breaks with blistering, winding arpeggios on the fantastic "Witches Brew" and "Disappear." Your tolerance here, though, will depend on your pop tolerance. She's noticeably out of her range on some tracks (unfortunate caterwauling ruins the otherwise perfect "Lights Out"), and when she's screaming at the top of her lungs the coy girl-next-door persona that typified her early appeal all but disappears. But even in her new, slightly less demure role, she thrives with her unwavering enthusiasm, either drilling the melodies in with fierce determination or playing the hurt, brooding diva to a tee (see standout "Broken Record," where her wounded cries duel with precocious percussion).
On a Mission ultimately isn't dubstep or Rinse FM 'selling out' but rather pop music with interesting production. Its success well-earned and borne naturally out of a slow and steady incubation period. (After all, this is a girl that cut her teeth doing UK funky with the best of the best—tracks that her vocals have graced, like Geeneus' "As I," are largely considered classics of the genre.) She's a burgeoning star with some credible backing behind her, not some bandwagon-hopping opportunist. On a Mission is a fine album, and an admirable attempt at an approachable and digestible microcosm of a bustling scene without sacrificing too much of what makes that scene so interesting in the first place.
Tracklist: Katy B - On a Mission01. Power on Me
02. Katy On a Mission
03. Why You Always Here
04. Witches Brew
06. Go Away
08. Broken Record
09. Lights On (featuring Ms. Dynamite)
10. Easy Please Me
11. Perfect Stranger
12. Hard to Get
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