The explosion of UK house and garage music in 2013 owes much to Katy B’s 2010 single “Katy On a Mission.” The bouncy dubstep tune leapt from the UK funky scene to the upper reaches of the UK singles chart, and from there Katy parlayed that jump into a solid pop career. For her second full-length CD, Little Red, Katy B distills the various genres of her debut album into a more consistently danceable and enjoyable record.
While the beats—mostly provided by frequent collaborator Geeneus—bump as hard as ever, much of the album is tinged with sadness. Even on a sultry cut such as “I Like You,” there is a sense of danger when Katy amends the title with, “…more than I should.” What is impressive is Katy’s emotional range, from the assured club-survey of “Next Thing” to the near-melodrama on the Adele-ian lead single “Crying For No Reason.” It’s especially striking since “Crying” follows her biting performance on the Jessie Ware duet “Aaliyah”—a slick house track that grafts the premise of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” onto the dance floor.
The album sags a bit in its middle act when Katy’s cool tone slips into impassiveness. But Little Red lifts itself from the slump with its gorgeous closing dyad. “Emotions” opens with a shadow of a drum ‘n’ bass beat, but resists a climax until the final chorus, when the beat bursts through the mix. “Fill me with emotion,” Katy sings, yearning to feel just as the song yearns to pulse. Even more lovely is “Still,” a mid-tempo R&B number that showcases Katy at her most emotive. “You still know how to make me feel,” she sings. On Little Red, Katy B proves that the same is true for her music.