“Pop with a South London touch” is how 18-year-old BRIT school alumni Cat Burns sums up her own music. Her sound covers a mix of the tastes she has garnered throughout her life, from US gospel powerhouse Kirk Franklin to the Essex export Anne-Marie. Born and raised in Streatham, the singer-songwriter is a breath of fresh air in a genre often criticised for its unoriginality.
Her latest offering, a new-gen anthem for all those suffering from unfaithful partners, ‘Cheater’ is one in a long line of singles reflecting the ups-and-downs of young love. “Let’s take a look at your DMs, shall we?” she challenges over fun, light rhythms reminiscent of afrobashment, reflecting the prominence of “social media relationships” today.
From a first listen to her back catalogue, Cat’s music is unapologetically London, and unapologetically her. Her 2018 single ‘Just Us’ is sprinkled with London slang, with lyrics like “I don’t really wanna par you off” and “don’t get too gassed” – a testament to her unflinching honesty. Where others might feel it necessary to shed their originality to fit the cookie-cutter mould of a pop artist, Cat uses her own teenage heartbreak to pen relatable, catchy songs.
“Why can’t I do that?” was one of the first questions the South Londoner asked herself growing-up – and seeing the lack of representation within the pop industry didn’t deter her. “I knew what kind of music I would make and I sprinkled my own influences on it,” she tells me, citing gospel music and noughties R&B as major influences, with the likes of Destiny’s Child and Marvin Sapp adding a soulful touch.
As a former student of the prolific BRIT School, alma mater to the likes of Adele and Loyle Carner, Cat has long been aware of the pressures and pitfalls of the music industry. She notes that the intensity of such an environment pushed her to the realisation that she was definitely going to pursue music. “Seeing the purposefulness of everybody around me helped me hone my own desire to really go for it,” she tells me. Although, she says, it wasn’t until she had independently released her debut Adolescent EP at the age of 16 and garnered attention from the outside world that the institution really began to take notice of her.
In true Gen Z-style Cat has documented her journey, using YouTube to build-up her self-belief (as well as to build-up a following). “I think it’s important to document the realities of my journey, and it has massively helped my confidence both behind and in front of the camera,” she says, having returned to vlogging after taking a break whilst at the BRIT school. “I was slightly apprehensive about what people would think, so I stopped it for a bit,” she tells me, as we reminisce about the awkwardness of being a girl aged 16, unsure of yourself and the world.
Cat Burns is like any other 18-year-old, trying to navigate life and love while figuring herself out. Penning songs that simply cannot be confined to one genre, spanning over folk, acoustic, soul, reggae and pop, her music reflects teenage musings on love today.