Last month, in a viral twitter thread commemorating retrospective “UK bops”, two previous hits reappeared from the crop to much fanfare: ‘Lights On’, the Ms. Dynamite-assisted number that taught us it has to do with the marathon, not the sprint, and ‘Katy On An Objective’, which broke down the psychology behind frisson.
Furthermore, the techno-tinged breakbeat of ‘Broken Record’ distributed on the socials, completing a triad of songs in which subgenres cultivated (and shielded) by followers were sequestered by a small vocalist with an eye on the revolving door of pop, one Katy B
– – –
– – –
Maybe’s it’s our cumulative requirement for a good rave; the extended freeze on night life rendering us inert, suspended in a whimsical state of being, thinking of the last time we got sweaty and loose in the basement of a seedy, non-descript club. But the shared profusion of love for Katy B is long past due. The Peckham vocalist has quietly demarcated the landscape of electronic music, her rainbowlike design and capability to skate over virtually any ready-made beat has been adopted en masse by mainstream vocalists today.
Last year saw Katy B’s peer and fellow dance music enthusiast Jessie Ware, repurpose disco, funk and Hi-NRG for a new age, her respect for past eras matching Katy B’s lifelong enthusiasm for 90 s rave culture, securely rooted in soulful house customs.
Lest we forget it was Katy B’s reappropriation of UK funky on ‘Lights On’ that generated a thousand replicas, her slickly-produced ode to stealth on the dancefloor became her highest-charting release at the time: a jam so indelibly contagious, it coaxed Ms. Dynamite out of retirement. The the vocal-rap interplay between the two was God-tier, their repeated pleas with the DJ with gun-finger and hand swipe flourishes, manifesting into a sort of sacred club manifesto.
Katy B has never actually dedicated herself to the starrier heights of pop fame; her individual flight course diverse from her contemporaries churning out thrown up sounds in the EDM-pop tradition. Shades of a reluctant star coloured her early years in the industry: a BRIT school alum, Katy B improved her craft with guest vocals on tracks like ‘As I’ and her cover of ‘Great Life’, becoming a staple on Rinse FM, her lilting discuss garage tracks wholesome however eventually secondary to the male manufacturers at the helm.
” I didn’t believe anything was gon na take place, but these songs ended up getting on pirate radio which was actually amazing. I simply thought, why do not I make this music?”, she told Wanderer in 2011
– – –
– – –
‘ On A Mission’ was launched when electronic music was practically solely a phallocentric profession, however Peckham’s own, browsed the hallowed ground of dark distortion with sangfroid and a womanly cool. The Benga– produced title track ingeniously filtered club-generated moments to the mainstream: it’s injection of sturdy bass subordinate to Katy B’s cat-and-mouse function play, vocals contorting to match the brazenness of the syncopated beats; beckoning a call-and-response with earworm hooks that remain simply as wonderful today as they did on very first listen.
The Mercury Prize-nominated record was a refreshing, filer-free fare, released at the turn of a brand-new years, prior to algorithms prevailed upon music and our usage of it. A streamlined 12- tracks, Katy B and her relied on producers Geeneus and DJ Zinc calved out a true and genuine paean to club culture. The opener ‘Power On Me’, with its lashings of psychodrama, set the tone for a job, that in its fullness, reimagined the virtues of what a dance record might be.
Katy B never ever untethered feeling from the dancefloor; the dancefloor was the one location she could unlock of her private reverie. She matched her disorderly experiences as a young twenty-something with the hedonism of cosmopolitan nightlife. Desire and longing, animosity and isolation wasn’t conveyed through saccharine ballads, however by private across-the-floor glimpses and body-talk flirtations, enabled by a soundscape so flexible, so high-octane, it passed you by in its charged brevity, engaging you to play it once again.
Katy B’s primary appeal lives in her understanding of the subculture surrounding clubbing, having actually grown up at the intersection of pirate radio, raves and the pluralistic underground scene that specified a pre-gentrified London.
A sonorous hit-parade, ‘On A Mission’, tackled the sub-sections of electronic music as if it was a club with a variety of different rooms, accommodating the needs and wants of club goers. It soundtracked Friday evening frivolity, dancing up until the dawn of Saturday when the come-down remained in complete impact, transitioning into the pensiveness of a Sunday where lingering misgivings and insecurities bubbled to the surface area (‘ Disappear’).
The record dissected communal night-time ecstasy: the combo of wilful inebriation and a thumping bassline, the effort that featured teasing a potential conquest (‘ Movement)’ however most importantly the collective euphoria allowed when dancing ended up being a type of catharsis (‘ Lights On’).
– – –
– – –
‘ On A Mission’ moved beyond the wearisome tropes of mindless hook-ups, and taken a look at dating and power dynamics (pre-Hinge!) through candid first-person diary entries.
” Standing at the bar, with my pal Olivia, we were trying our best to capture up …”, the critical line from ‘Easy Please Me’ would have fallen flat if sung by another singer, but Katy B, a South Londoner through and through, possessed the kind of dry, wry vernacular that sent the line soaring with impact.
Bar a short venture into more business pop and contemporary R&B on her sophomore record ‘Little Red’, Katy B mostly dodged patterns in favour of finessing her club-rooted noise, playing around with pace and state of mind: be it the ambient state of mind music of ‘Sapphire Blue’ or the glitchy bombast of the Sampha-produced ‘Play’. Her preference for four-on-the-floor bangers stayed, the George Fitzgerald-produced ‘I Like You’, a natural continuation of the garage-inflected home of her launching, it’s siren-like switch up at the climax symbolising the moment of truth.
On her collaborative LP ‘Honey’, she ventured even further down the world of electronica, shape-shifting in service of sound. She employed prominent electronic producers Four Tet and Floating Points on the synthetic string shimmy of ‘Relax’, an underrated deep cut in an underrated discography.
– – –
– – –
‘ Honey’ might not have emitted the radiance of her earlier material, however Katy B affirmed her position as an artist reimagining her vision of their adult years and the autonomy it afforded, she was no longer the wide-eyed club-goer, however a lady owning her sexuality: The Kaytranada-produced title track communicated this provocative side, the pace reined-in, sticky-sweet beliefs leaking with dirty carnality.
Katy B notched her very first UK top with the KDA cooperation ‘Turn The Music Louder (Rumble)’, justice for a years spent serving us banger after banger.
And then she disappeared.
– – –
– – –
Words: Shahzaib Hussain
Get backstage slip peeks, unique content and access to Clash Live occasions and a true view into our world as the enjoyable and video games unfold.