Katy B returns from a two-year lay-off with her third LP titled ‘Honey’ and when you look over the track list, it reads like a dance compilation, every song featuring a host of veritable collaborators, established and new archetypes of nocturnal club culture. With two albums worth of material, the Peckham starlet has managed to successfully bestride commercial sensibilities with underground dynamism. On ‘Honey’, Katy B continues to spread her sonic palette further and farther outside her fruitful and trusted partnership with Rinse pioneers Geeneus and Zinc. But does she thrive in new territory, with new partners?
Mostly yes. On the title track, Katy B enlists the help of buzzy XL recruit Kaytranada and what emerges is possibly the most sensual track she has ever recorded. ‘Honey’ brims with a sense of suspended overflow, her dulcet tones ebbing and flowing, singing about the incessant want to take it “there” with her lover. It’s a track that showcases a miscellaneous sort of escapade for Katy B, deciding to rein in the tempo for some sparkly neo-soul - spacier, funkier and sexier. It’s also a shining example of the singer’s affinity for magnifying the small, menial moments that build in stature by the climactic final chorus, raising the decibels, her desire reaches fever pitch. It’s proof that Katy B can go slow if she wants to.
Her pliant vocal remains the focal point as she glides from sub-genre to sub-genre, even when the production leaves a lot to be desired. Take what should have been a powerhouse collaboration: the Craig David-assisted, Major Lazer-produced ‘Who Am I’, a superfluous leftover, Katy B’s metier in heartbreak dance wasted on a song that doesn’t really stick. It wouldn’t be a Katy B album without the some essential up-tempos, however. ‘I Wanna Be’ is Katy at her euphoric finest, featuring somber musings on love and longing over a hazy, atmospheric sweep of drums and synths. She embodies the ‘90s house vocalist on the KDA-produced ‘Turn The Music Louder (Rumble)’, removing Tinie’s verses on the original 2015 single release and venturing out on her own, superior in its sheer vocal legerdemain, featuring an acrobatic, sustained note to close out the song. On ‘Calm Down’, featuring Floating Points and Four Tet, strings and syncopated shuffling beats collide beautifully in Katy B’s most experimental track to date.
There is a sense that ‘Honey’ could have been more audacious, even if the quota for disparate sounds was fulfilled. Sometimes the lyrics venture into run-of-the-mill territory, the narrative not dissimilar from what was explored in her first two LPs. Still, ‘Honey’s’ strength is that it isn’t some life-affirming opus but a glossy, continuous mix playing in the background as you ready yourself for a night on the grind, probably exactly as Katy intended. It’s an exemplar of her adaptability, and in a music realm stacked with mind-numbing, homogeneous house numbers, Katy B still occupies a lane of her own.
Words: Shahzaib Hussain
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