Kate Nash: 'Nice' Done Right London-based 20-year-old Kate Nash is one of many British women poised to make pop breakthroughs in the wake of Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse. But music critic Robert Christgau thinks she's special, in large part because she's ordinary.


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Kate Nash: 'Nice' Done Right

Kate Nash: 'Nice' Done Right

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Kate Nash's debut album is called Made of Bricks. Sherri O'Connor hide caption

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Sherri O'Connor

The main reason I like Kate Nash is that "nice" is so hard to do right in pop. The 20-year-old Londoner knows how to deploy her slightly nasal voice so it takes you by surprise; ditto for her piano. That is, she can be strong. But she's also nice — not insipid, not mealy-mouthed, but just nice, as proved on her debut album, Made of Bricks.

It's Kate Nash's homebody quality that really wins me over. I rooted for rebel rockers like PJ Harvey and Courtney Love, and sometimes I warm to their rivals, the sexpots — especially self-created ones like Shakira. But when Lily Allen popped out of nowhere in 2005, the playing field for women in pop changed.

You have to compare Kate Nash to Lily Allen. They're both British MySpace self-promoters, both indie-identified and major-label backed. Allen's MySpace page even linked to Nash's early songs — like "Foundations," her breakthrough hit. I think Lily Allen is a major songwriter, and Kate Nash, so far, is just a welcome variation on the ordinary-girl idea. She's not as funny or beatwise as Allen. But that stay-at-home thing is a great touch. She reminds me of the young women I know, including my own daughter, more than the razor-tongued Allen, not to mention Shakira or PJ Harvey.

If I were smarter about the English class system, I might get picky about that accent, which some claim sounds like a posh girl slumming. But the fact is, I don't care how "authentic" she is. Kate Nash is an ex-drama student forging a persona from her own experience, like hereditary bohemian Lily Allen before her. Sometimes she's a silly schoolgirl poet, but usually she's just looking for love. Or something like love — she'll decide when she grows up.

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