Review Summary: In case you didn't hear, Katy's on a mission. And luckily she passes it, but just.
The term “pop music” has long been one obscured in varying degrees of separation, descriptors constantly falling over themselves in attempting to distinguish the magnetic nature of the genre. And to be fair, it’s a term that has no definable borders as it’s not ashamed to consume anything necessary to remain relevant in a world where former underground champions are now being prepped and groomed for daytime recognition. Garage has always flirted with the idea of welcoming in a bigger fanbase, and dubstep has seen itself being kicked in the front door as of late. And in an effort to get these two distinctly underground mainstays their glorious day in the sun, their already turbulent soundscape has been dumbed down in favor of catchy hooks and charming guest spots. All that good shi
t that radio stations eat up. But in that quest for global domination (or in the hopes that the local radio dj might actually start using the phrase UK Funky), dubstep forgot to give itself a voice. Skream tried to fill in the void by turning La Roux into a club sensation, but something a little more solid and convincing was ultimately going to be needed to do the trick. He (along with the rest of Magnetic Man) succeeded in introducing Katy Brien to a much wider audience, and for better or worse, she’s decided to raise her hand up in hopes of securing the job.
Now Katy is an interesting character in the realm of pop music, neither gifted enough to outshine the majority of her peers, nor bland enough to fall into obscurity. She merely exists and, bless her little cotton socks, does everything in her power to get by. Which includes teaming up with some of the biggest names in the business. You’ve undoubtedly heard the title track by this point (and if not, get out of the damn house), with Benga gloriously scissor-cutting his synths across the thumping beat. And of course ‘Lights On’ featuring everyone’s favorite ragga head Ms. Dynamite, returning from an alarming disappearance with a bark that’s only matched by her bite. Then Magnetic Man (Skream, Benga & Artwork) decided to make Brien the focal point for their dreary dubstep coma ‘Perfect Stranger’. The point is, Katy’s had the chance to burn her way into the subconscious of radio listeners world wide, now’s the time to put the proverbial eggs in one basket and hope for the best.
Sadly, anyone who has been following Brien’s meteoric rise to something resembling super-stardom will be disappointed to know that there isn’t anything on offer here that comes close to touching ‘On A Mission’. It’s not that the title track is anything to ponder over or debate to any great degree, it’s just a cut that manages to accomplish everything it sets out to do. Without bothering to seek out something more descriptive, ‘On A Mission’ is just fun
on a level that you know will put a smile on your face when it eventually leaks its way over the speakers of clubs around the world. ‘Why You Always Here’ comes close with its trance underpinnings, and ‘Broken Record’ propels itself under a fierce momentum that could potentially see it self blazing across the radios any day now. Even the potent foundation of ‘Witches Brew’ has the potential to soar higher than it probably should, but something just seems to hold it, and the whole album, back.
Perhaps it’s Katy herself. She’s by no means the kind of person who would stick out in a crowd, which somewhat works against her intentions of becoming the next big thing (which is ultimately the goal of every radio monger). And her lyrics aren’t the most substantial, mostly revolving around getting messy at the local club and varying metaphors loosely connected to drunken euphoria at the hands of whatever dj happens to be spinning the decks. In a way it works though, in the same way that The Streets were able to become so massively popular for a spell. They both possess a very simple working man’s (or in this case, girl’s) vibe, humble and simplified. These are anthems that we can all connect to, simply because they’re tales of the everyday. On A Mission
isn’t the too cool for school debut a few were expecting, but it also isn’t the complete write-off that a lot of her detractors were pinning their bets on. Casually flittering back and forth through varying club sensations, Katy B’s album is one that succeeds in accomplishing everything it sets out to do. She’s actually managed to complete the mission that she’s set herself. Brien’s passed, but no flying colors.