As a metaphor for music, "honey" works in both club and pop worlds: each style emphasises collective work over lone genius, and promises a blissful sugar-rush. Tracks with the title bookend the album. The opener, a sultry modern-boogie number from Kaytranada, plays on the lustful implications of the sweet and sticky substance (Katy's songs about the dance floor are invariably about love, too). The closer is a kind of beat poem with gooey guitar and a tender verse from Novelist. Libidinous dance-pop and heartfelt confessional: Honey is an entertaining jumble of both.
It shouldn't be surprising that the album is a little confused. It draws on over a dozen producers, reconnecting with the dance music underground from multiple angles. Major Lazer's watery tropical house track "Who Am I" is an early wobble; Katy's gutsy voice will never have the airbrushed sheen of a Bieber. She's much better off with homegrown versions of a similar thing. A Tinie Tempah-less edit of KDA's chart banger "Turn The Music Louder (Rumble)" features one of the sharpest vocal performances. Tracks from Midlands producers Chris Lorenzo and Hannah Wants are glossy pop-house with a UK kick. The house and bass style these artists peddle can make for monotonous dance music, but as pop it strikes a good balance of rough and smooth.
More avant-garde UK producers have a tougher time. A soggy arrangement mars Mssingno's anthemic "Water Rising," and Katy's presence overpowers Mr. Mitch's calligraphic synths on "Heavy." But mostly Honey is a vivid survey of dance styles as they tilt at the mainstream. Whether grime (the D Double E-featuring "Lose Your Head"), footwork-tinged hip-hop (J.Reid's "Chase Me"), or strait-laced drum & bass (the Outlook Festival-inspired "So Far Away," with Wilkinson), Katy gives each style an infectious energy. Honey lacks the coherence of her previous albums, but as a love letter to the rave it's eloquent and sincere.
Fri / 29 Apr 2016
01. Honey feat. Kaytranada
02. Who Am I feat. Major Lazer & Craig David
03. So Far Away feat. Wilkinson & Stamina MC
04. Chase Me feat. Sasha Keable & JD Reid
05. Lose Your Head feat. The HeavyTrackerz, J Hus & D Double E
06. I Wanna Be feat. Chris Lorenzo
07. Calm Down feat. Four Tet & Floating Points
08. Heavy feat. Mr. Mitch
09. Turn The Music Louder (Rumble) feat. KDA
10. Dark Delirium feat. Jamie Jones & Kate Simko
11. Water Rising feat. Mssingno & Geeneus
12. Dreamers feat. Hannah Wants
13. Honey feat. Novelist & Geeneus