In 2011, Beyonce split from her Dad manager, booked her own studio time and ended up churning out 4. Until the magnificent surprise release of her self-titled effort, 4 was her best album. It was a record that sounded free and while she enlisted the help of many, she was the star – vocally and stylistically in complete control.
Aesthetically 4 draws no similarities to Victoria Hesketh aka. Little Boots third album Working Girl but the story is the same. This is Hesketh in complete control acting, as she put it, as the CEO of her own business. Theres no in-your-face feminism in the lyrics of the record but theres a female empowerment in the way shes running so show and doing so with creative innovation. Its also apt that shes named the record Working Girl because without big label heads behind her shes churned out her best album to date.
Working Girl is loosely a concept album in the way that it centres around the character of a business woman. It tracks her business and pleasure touching on everything from one night stands to workplace progression. Its all delivered through the vessel of electronic meets pure pop music thats been created with the help of Ariel Rechtshaid (whos also produced for HAIM, Beyonce and Madonna) and British producer Com Truise.
In many ways the record brings together the overt pop of her debut Hands and couples it with the nostalgic techno elements of Nocturnes. From the after-dark throb of Working Girl to the perky sunshine-soaked Better In The Morning, its a masterfully cohesive listen bound for the dancefloor without being obviously destined for it.
There are plenty of bangers too be found on the record. Get Things Done is a rumbling, gutsy pop song with a instrumentally and lyrically powerhouse chorus while Heroine borrows 90s rave elements to deliver the perfect 3am soundtrack. These tracks give Heskeths naturally airy voice the right space to really get the recognition it deserves. Too often on Hands, she tried to compete with big-chorus singers like Lady Gaga. Here, shes found her sweet spot and instead of big choruses, she creates big, swelling atmosphere that her voice is apart of rather than at the centre. On album highlight The Game her voice sits wonderfully next to 80s keys.
The albums sounds are very club-based but that doesnt mean its devoid of sprawling pop moments. Everything is possible, you just need a miracle, she sings on No Pressure sounding like Kylie Minogue if her key fanbase was twentysomethings with a penchant for more interesting techno music. Closer Better In The Morning has also grown and grown since its release a few months ago to become one of the more surprising pop triumphs of 2015. Its so light and perky that you could blow it away faster than you could a dandelion but its that fragility that makes it so ridiculously enjoyable.
The albums key theme may be empowerment but she occasionally lets her guard down for some of the albums softer moments. Dont you know I need help too, she sings amongst a twinkling instrumental atmosphere on Help Too. Its a sweet, walls-down song that shows you can be in complete control and still need a companion. This is revisited again on Paradise when she sings where to escape when Im lonely, for a while. She ramps things up for the chorus with stomping bass proving a well-known fact that heartbreak is always best served on the dancefloor.
Electronic pop is so popular in the alternative world at the moment that its so easy to be forgettable. This album isnt forgettable and thats because shes taken risks. It genuinely feels as if shes got nothing to lose when shes channeling sparse, industrial techno on Heroine or being tantalisingly cheeky on Taste It alongside a tribal-sounding instrumental.
The thing that makes Working Girl so successful is that Hesketh is completely committed to the theme. It would have been very easy to call the album Working Girl, give it a cover that teams with the theme and then deliver up 13 pop songs about falling in and out of love. Hesketh hasnt done that. Shes formulated an album that explores different facets of a woman in control including the inevitable moments of loneliness and heartbreak. Its fun, daring and heartwarming, giving us a better picture of Little Boots as a person than weve ever had.
Working Girl is out Friday 10 July.