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

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Kate Nash: 'Nice' Done Right


Kate Nash: 'Nice' Done Right

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Pop singer Kate Nash took home a Brit Award this year as Best British Female Solo Artist. Her album "Made of Bricks" is now available here in the U.S. and our critic Robert Christgau has been listening. He says Kate Nash is special because she's ordinary.

ROBERT CHRISTGAU: The main reason I like Kate Nash is that nice is so hard to do right in pop. Nash knows how to deploy her slightly nasal voice so it takes you by surprise; ditto for her piano.

(Soundbite of music)

CHRISTGAU: She can be strong, but basically she's nice; not insipid, not mealy-mouthed just nice.

Here's how she begins one of the key tracks on her debut album, "Made of Bricks."

(Soundbite of song, "Mouthwash")

Ms. KATE NASH (Singer): (Singing) This is my face, covered in freckles, with the occasional spot, and some veins.

CHRISTGAU: The song is called "Mouthwash" and it goes on like that till its title comes around a minute in.

(Soundbite of song, "Mouthwash")

Ms. NASH: (Singing) And I use mouthwash. Sometimes I floss. I got a family, and I drink cups of tea. I've got nostalgic (unintelligible) I've got familiar faces. I've got a mixed-up memory. And I've got favorite places. And I'm singing, uh oh, on a Friday night...

CHRISTGAU: 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 2006, the playing field for women in pop changed.

You could just be a girl sticking up for yourself. You have to compare Lily Allen and Kate Nash. They're both British, both MySpace self-promoters. Both indie-identified and major-label backed. Allen's popular MySpace page even linked to Nash's early songs, like "Foundations," her breakthrough hit.

(Soundbite of song, "Foundations")

Ms. NASH: (Singing) My finger tips are holding onto the cracks in our foundation, and I know that I should let go, but I can't. And every time we fight I know it's not right, every time that you're upset and I smile, I know I should forget, but I can't.

CHRISTGAU: 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. Here's what happens in "We Get On," after she spies her latest crush kissing some tart at a party.

(Soundbite of song, "We Get On")

Ms. NASH: (Singing) 'Cause you deserve a real nice guy. So I proceeded to get drunk and cry. And lock myself in the toilets for the entire night, Saturday night, I watched channel five, I particularly liked "CSI."

CHRISTGAU: 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, whether "We Get On" really happened or not. Kate Nash is an ex-drama student, forging a persona from her own experience. 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.

(Soundbite of song, "Pumpkin Soup")

NORRIS: Kate Nash's album is "Made of Bricks." Robert Christgau is a senior critic at Blender magazine.

Ms. NASH: (Singing) You're chatting to me, like we connect, but I don't even know if we're still friends. It's so confusing, understanding you is making me not want to do. And things that I know I should do, but I trip fast and then I lose. And I hate looking like a fool. I just want your kiss boy.

NORRIS: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News.

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