“Sometimes I sing and dance around the house in my underwear. Doesn’t make me Madonna, never will,” Joan Cusack quips in Mike Nichols’s urban fairy tale Working Girl. Cusack’s big-haired ’80s lady was serving Melanie Griffith’s titular heroine a sobering dose of reality that simply dressing the part sometimes isn’t enough. But for the contemporary female pop singer, that realization can be a liberating one, emancipating her from the obligation to bear the weight of a crown or funnel creative energy into increasingly outlandish costumes or reinventions.
Though her ambitious debut, Hands, seemed determined to anoint her as, at the very least, the next Kylie, U.K. singer-songwriter Victoria Hesketh, better known as Little Boots, seems to have made peace with her place in the pop pantheon. Released on her own On Repeat label, her third album, Working Girl, is, much like 2013’s Nocturnes, a more sonically focused effort. From the title track to the deep-house “Heroine” and “Business Pleasure,” the theme of feminine empowerment is threaded loosely throughout, though “Get Things Done,” with its kitschy disco affectations and girl-power hook (“We know how to get things done!”), sounds less like a modern feminist anthem and more like the theme song to Amy Schumer’s recent “80’s Ladies” sketch.
And while the reggae-influenced keyboards and bouncy, early-’90s house bass of “The Game” provide some nifty nostalgia-triggering tricks that are ultimately in service of rather pedestrian melodies and lyrics (“Play that game, break that chain”), tracks like the standout “Help Too,” a bittersweet electro ballad worthy of Robyn, display an understated sophistication and vulnerability: “Baby, let me know if you’re cold, you can have my sweater/Call me up in pieces, I’ll put you back together.” It’s in moments like these that Little Boots seems to have found the perfect fit.