Music Reviews

Katy B Honey

(Rinse/Virgin EMI) Rating - 5/10

In 2014, British electropop chanteuse Katy B came out with sophomore effort Little Red, a glittering dance record that was at once idiosyncratic and accessible. Containing club-ready tracks such as 5 AM and Crying for No Reason, Little Red heralded a moment in which Katy appeared to be one hit single away from international success (she had already experienced critical acclaim with her 2011 debut On A Mission, which also garnered her a Mercury Prize nomination). Katy is now back with an album touted as a “love letter to [her] musical roots in the club underground.” Honey, which from the title alone promises sensuality and charm, delivers on that love letter as sincerely as it can, boasting collaborations with producers representing all the relevant genres of UK dance music. But for someone so molded by and devoted to the club scene, Katy B could have extolled the mysteries and dramas of life on the dancefloor with a little more sparkle.

Going by the songs on Honey, Katy's dance club is less a sweaty underground rave than a smoke-soaked liquor lounge. Much of the album is powered by an inoffensive loop of bass, synth, and 4x4 beats with minor variations between each song, so that by the end the difference between tracks such Dark Delirium and Dreamers shrinks into oblivion. Add to that the title track, So Far Away, and Chase Me and you have a handful of quasi-Muzak jams that would sound perfect playing from the speakers of an H&M or Zara store. If it were not for Katy's distinctive voice—which she gloriously wields with an Aguilera-like ferocity during the last forty seconds or so of each trackHoney would not survive its own sweetness. 

At certain moments, however, the energies between Katy and the producers mesh just right, resulting in alchemic varieties of urban pop that glow brighter after each listen. I Wanna Be is one such semi-precious gem, a bassy, House-inflected slice of desperation and desire. "I wanna tell you but I'm just too worried/ I think I got just enough Dutch courage tonight," Katy sings in the opening verse, revealing glimmers of the original sass she displayed on breakout hit Katy on a Mission. Honey reaches an oddly-timed peak with Lose Your Head, a radio-friendly club banger that sees Katy sweetly ordering the crowd to lose their heads over a gritty grime beat. The song works, perhaps thanks to producer Geeneus' street cred, but one can't help but raise an eyebrow at its existence in an album named Honey, surrounded by flossy dance tracksapparently coherence wasn't a priority for Katy's crew. But nothing beats Turn the Music Louder (Rumble), the solo version of the hit she had with Tinie Tempah back in the fall of 2015. Produced by DJ KDA and inexplicably shoved into the recesses of the album, Turn the Music Louder is arguably the only scorching moment on Honey, an incandescent release of energy and ecstasy. Had the album ended shortly thereafter with Water Rising—a melancholy yet graceful ode to heartbreak that uses the impersonal vacuum of a dance floor as a balm—Honey's listeners may have been spared much of its indulgences.