Friday, September 27th, 2013

Katy B – 5 AM

I wonder if T-Pain is also in this club?

Anthony Easton: Valium just makes me fall asleep, so love like Valium would just be like cuddling. And then I would get hot, and the person sleeping with me would knock their elbow into my face, and it would be a mess, but it would be less of a mess than what ever this dancey-housey-boshesque thing is.

David Turner: Why Valium? Anything but Valium? Can a word ruin a song’s mood than what this poor metaphor does to the merely okay “5 AM”? A lot of questions, but I guess it’s just expectations being too high. Katy B’s debut album, On a Mission, is one of the best of the decade, and “What Love is Made Of” was a great opening single for her sophomore album. But a dud single is not a career-ending or fandom-revoking measure, so I’ve made my criticisms and will still be ready for the next single!

Alfred Soto: But she doesn’t sound like she’s on Valium! Irony! Imagine this track as a belated sequel to Everything But The Girl’s “Lullaby of Clubland,” in which Tracey Thorn wanders into a packed club at 3 a.m. without a coat looking for her lover. Two hours later, she’s forgotten the coat and the lover after dropping some fantastic X. Katy squeezes herself between the percussive lines, yelling through an impossible din.

Katherine St Asaph: Katy B’s best single was “Unfinished Sympathy” for ’00s kids; her second-best single, weirdly, turns out is “Gimme Gimme Gimme” for clubbing hours, or perhaps “Just Dance” minus Gaga. Katy deploys details like quick cuts. It’s 5 a.m. — Katy sings it like a shudder — three hours after nothing good happens. Katy’s lost her friends, and they didn’t even care enough to text. Nobody’s texting — no girls, no guys, no friends or otherwise. The room’s somehow more crowded, the lights less natural, the guys more threatening. She needs to not be there, but she’s still there; that inner switch that flips when one’s decided to flirt is lodged at On. The night is a sunk cost fallacy. And the trip’s shorter and safer-seeming to whoever’s place, with whomever, than hers alone. (Cheaper too, if it’s the Tube.) It’s substituting sex for intimacy, a substitute that backfires — but Katy knows this. On the bridge, she submerges her cries beneath come-ons; in the chorus, her plea that “I need somebody to knock me out” isn’t even masochistic really; it’s resigned, to whatever ends the night. (It reminds me — I’m sorry — of Elizabeth Wurtzel in New York: “For a while after my first book came out, I went home with a different man every night and did heroin every day–which showed my good sense, because the rest of the time I was completely out of control.”) The genius of Katy B is how well she makes pop of it: a chorus that soars for a second, then tumbles floorward; frantic-tired vocals; and a backing more conversant with Top 40 than ever — Usher’s “Scream,” maybe, recorded on older tech to a file gracefully fragmenting. (They could be answer songs.) Is it a bit On a Mission 2? Yes, but who among us doesn’t want that?

Patrick St. Michel: The sun is such a disorienting sight once you step out of a club. After a all-night affair, the body usually aches and the world outside looks surreal – other exhausted individuals staggering home, folks passed out in alleys, people trying to make a last-second hookup happen. It only gets more intense if you are alone – the memories of the hours before, along with all the encounters and missed connections, replay, and things can get lonely fast. That McGriddle combo starts looking like the only companionship in the world. Katy B gets this sensation, and she knows what the dawn brings and how isolating it can feel (especially if your friends vanish). “5 AM” is the emotional roller coaster that hour deserves.

Jonathan Bogart: “That beat’s so sick” is a lyric that could come off as terminally clueless or grossly poseur in a throat less carefully calibrated than Katy B’s, but she puts such a spin on the velar stop that you can hear her subtly making fun of herself for saying it. (Ke$ha would do the same thing, but without the subtlety.) That same sense of thought-out control prevails throughout the track, which sounds remarkable composed and unruffled for needing a lover like Valium. Those of us whose emotions are rarely worn on our sleeves, though, may appreciate the external composure. Still waters, etc.

Daisy Le Merrer: Sometimes meeting expectations is great, especially when they haven’t been met in a while : When you get a Katy B song sounding exactly like you’d expect a Katy B song to sound, a song called 5AM that sounds exactly like the kind of song you’d want to play at 5AM, that song deserves the exact grade you’d expect a TSJ reviewer to give a Katy B song.

Scott Mildenhall: Whether entering a room, standing at the bar (with her friend Oliviah) or just having got paid, Katy B is her best at night. Her best, too, is rarely light (part of why her last single didn’t really hit the mark), and she’s rediscovered that here. Moody but fevered, she places you right alongside her, inside the story, watching as she loses her friends and checks her phone, feeling her anxiety and paranoia as much as her longing. The production is the set, and everything else is hers; the details minor and major, she plays the immediate drama to a tee. If she wanted to she could have made a brilliant night-in-the-life-of concept album already. In lieu of that, this will suffice.

Brad Shoup: Katy’s gouged out a significant niche turning dance subtext into straight text. In a typical track, the club is an agar plate. You’re always aware of the world outside your particular compression; despite your deepest hopes for the experiment, the music and drugs facilitate the same reactions every time; and there’s bounds to how much you can thrive in this environment. In “5 AM,” a boy is the reagent, per usual. But something keeps Katy from giving herself to the situation, some combination of a scattered mind and the dreaded daylight and history. I want her to wake up and feel different, no matter how easy it is to stick to routine.

Reader average: [6.87] (8 votes)

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3 Responses to “Katy B – 5 AM”

  1. But of COURSE it doesn’t sound she’s on Valium — it’s supposed to sound like she *needs* it.

  2. lol cedric

  3. Valium is a great metaphor that rings very true if you’ve ever ended up going home from a club way before you’re ready to go to sleep, so to speak.