Dissecting 2011’ s best pop release.
KATY B has been ordered to behave like a pop star.
‘‘ I always end up at Brixton McDonald’s at three in the morning, drunk, and holding a Fileto-Fish,’’ she giggles.
‘‘ But I can’t do that any more. My record company says I need to be aware of the dangers.’’ Such as? ‘‘ Oh, they think I’ll be kidnapped,’’ Katy B says, surprised at her own answer.
‘‘ There are some idiots out there. It only takes one person who thinks they’re being funny by punching you in the face.
‘‘ I have to be sensible and street-wise. That’s the best way to say it, really, because I’m not scared.’’
Katy B, 22, born Kathleen Brien, is from the tough streets of Peckham, South London, where rioting broke out recently. She graduated from the BRIT School, a performing arts hot spot whose roll of honour includes Amy Winehouse, Adele, Jessie J and Leona Lewis. She did a degree in popular music at university, but ‘‘ hated reviewing my strengths and weaknesses at nine in the morning with a hangover’’. ‘‘ Most music courses are like that – analysing and evaluating yourself. It’s hard because I’m a do-er,’’ she says.
‘‘ I want to do it, rather than think about what I did and how I did it.’’
Strangely, Katy B is now in a place where critics are dissecting her debut album and musing about its effect on the popscape.
On A Mission, nominated for Britain’s prestigious Mercury Prize, is arguably the best pop release of 2011.
It began humbly enough, as a potential show reel for DJs and producers at underground London FM station Rinse. But as collaborations with Rinse players Geeneus, DJ Zinc and Benga took shape, the focus shifted back to Katy B.
‘‘ I didn’t make this album for a pop audience,’’ she says.
‘‘ I made it for people who listen to Rinse FM, or people in the clubs, or people in their room.
‘‘ I wasn’t bothered about reaching everyone. It was for people who wanted to connect to it.’’
On A Mission has broad appeal. Lyrically, Katy B reflects on being young, restless and ravey over slick backdrops of dubstep, broken beat, electro and house.
‘‘ I started out singing soul and jazz, but I got bored – I don’t want to be another Joss Stone,’’ she says.
Her time at the BRIT School taught Katy B to cast her ideas far and wide and she was also in a place of learning with like minds.
She recalls former classmate Jessie J singing in a bar in Croydon as part of their performance exam. But she mostly remembers one singer as a cut above all others.
‘‘ Adele was as amazing as she is now,’’ she says. ‘‘ She was a year above me but she was like 10 years ahead of everyone there.
‘‘ It was like she was already formed as an artist. At school, everyone would do the Beyonce song they’d heard on TV the night before. ‘‘ But Adele would do rock or indie or reggae – and just be amazing. She knew how to do
her own thing.’’