Wednesday 29 March 2017

Betty Who - The Valley

Betty Who - The Valley

There's a parallel universe somewhere where Betty Who's debut album 'Take Me When You Go' got the recognition it deserves, where she's known as Betty Who and not Betty...Who?

As it stands, though, she's hovering in the pop niche, just on the verge of the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen, Robyn and Katy Perry. 'The Valley' should change that.

At first listen, it's a similar, fizzy-pop affair that does little to progress her sound from her debut. Buoyant funk rhythms, bright pop hooks and infectious production are in abundance, alongside simple lyrics that occasionally border on saccharine cliché.

But like those other artists, there's more going on here. The opening title track initially seems out of place - an a capella gospel ballad sung in a hushed, low register - but it sets up the heartbreak that simmers throughout the album. "I know that you don't love me anymore," she repeats at the start, layered with harmony. It's an arresting, nostalgic start, but we soon lurch into the bubbly, boisterous Some Kinda Wonderful. On its own, its an effervescent pop track, but after The Valley it feels more like a memory of a past love, tinged with subtle sadness.

From here, the album is a mix of fizzing positivity and upbeat sadness, though whether this is reminiscence or new love is ambiguous. Best of all is when these worlds collide: "when you hear our song at least pretend you're missing me" she pleads before her heart erupts into a neon drop that crackles and sputters angrily on Pretend You're Missing Me. Eventually Who does move on from past heartache with Make You Memories and Reunion, whilst penultimate track Beautiful rounds off the album with a self-empowerment 70s funk anthem that's pure joy.

Or maybe this narrative doesn't exist and 'The Valley' is simply a collection of great pop songs. The influence of other artists is clear and the lyrics are littered with references: Mama Say is Who's ode to Britney Spears, whilst Reunion has a nod to Adele ("I tried to call a thousand times but I'm so bad at apologising"). It even ends with her cover of I Love You Always Forever by Donna Lewis. The love songs and the heartbreak and the self-empowerment are your typical pop staples, but unoriginality be damned. They're done here with such confidence and polish it's impossible not to crack a smile.


Gizzle's choice:
* Some Kinda Wonderful
* Pretend You're Missing Me
* Beautiful

Listen: 'The Valley' is out now.