British Singer Katy B Brings Her Inventive Dance Pop to America

Plus: Stream two tracks, 'On a Mission' and 'Broken Record', by this week's Artist to Watch

May 4, 2011 9:00 AM ET
British Singer Katy B Brings Her Inventive Dance Pop to America

Click to listen Katy B's "On a Mission" and "Broken Record"

Who: A 21-year-old singer from London who has scored a string of inventive dance hits in England, including the dubstep anthem "Katy On a Mission" and the bittersweet electro-pop ballad "Broken Record," both off her debut album On a Mission (due out in the U.S. sometime this fall). Much like Swedish dance pop star Robyn, Katy B (real name: Kathleen Brien) has a strong R&B inflected voice – but where Robyn often seems jaded by bad romance, Katy B sings like a young person discovering the heartbreak of adult relationships for the first time.

Joining the Scene: Katy B was a fan of dance music for years – "I grew up raving and clubbing," she says – but it was only when a friend's brother asked if she wanted to sing on one of his songs that she thought about producing it herself. "I didn't think anything was gonna happen, but that ended up getting on pirate radio and that was really exciting. I just thought, why don't I make this music?"

Pop School: Katy B is a graduate of the BRIT school, the performing arts academy in London that counts Adele, Amy Winehouse, Leona Lewis, Jessie J, Imogen Heap and Kate Nash as alumni. Though the school has produced some big stars, Katy says the environment is more supportive than competitive. "Studying music, everyone sort of has their own style – it's not like everyone's going for the same part," she says.

Surprise Popularity: Katy B's music hasn't been officially released in the U.S. just yet, but she's happy to learn that her songs are getting good reviews on American websites and blogs. "I prefer that, really," she says of the grassroots acclaim. (All of her independently released singles have charted in the U.K., with "On a Mission" reaching Number Five.) "I don't want people to think they have to like me because I'm on TV every other minute. I'm happy that people like it because they like it."

LAST WEEK: Anna Calvi Combines Dark Romance and Virtuosic Guitar Skills 

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