Although Dawn Richard has never been a household name, she’s definitely had a taste of mainstream success. As a member of R&B girl band Danity Kane, she scored a pair of US Number One albums in 2006 and 2008. She then joined P. Diddy’s project Diddy – Dirty Money and sang on the huge 2010 hit ‘Coming Home’. But since going solo a year later, the New Orleans-born singer-songwriter (whose surname is pronounced “Ri-shard”) has pursued a more experimental and intriguing path.
‘Redemption’, the final part in an album trilogy that includes 2013’s ‘Goldenheart’ and 2015’s ‘Blackheart’ makes no attempt to hide its ambition: most pop-R&B stars don’t write songs with titles like ‘Valhalla’, ‘Lazarus’ and ‘The Louvre’. At times, her music flirts with EDM, but Dawn and main collaborator Machinedrum (who’s previously worked with Azealia Banks) avoid that genre’s predictability with unconventional song structures and unexpected production flourishes. Noisy rock guitars meet skittish electro blips on ‘LA’; ‘Vines’ is a psychedelic R&B jam on which Dawn asks her lover to “expand my mind”; the pretty but unsettling ‘Lilies’ sounds like a twisted electro lullaby. Throughout, Dawn makes almost as much use of Auto-Tune as ‘808s & Heartbreaks’-era Kanye West.
Although ‘Redemption’ is an album that will reward repeat listens, it’s far from inaccessible. ‘Love Under Lights’ is an instantly infectious club cut about “looking for some temporary lovin’” on the dancefloor; the horn-fuelled R&B blast of ‘Renegades’ sounds like a skewed take on a Rihanna hit. Dawn’s lyrics are sometimes a bit cryptic but she nearly always delivers an ear-snagging turn-of-phrase. “We’re doing time, we’re sentenced to life,” she sings affectingly on ‘Black Crimes’, a song inspired by the US police brutality that has fuelled the Black Lives Matter movement.
Dense, detailed and idiosyncratic, ‘Redemption’ doesn’t slot in neatly next to the tropical beats and minimal pop hits that are currently dominating the charts. But there will always be a place for music as rich as this that dares to be a little different.
- Release Date: 18th November 2016
- Record Label: Local Action Records / Our Dawn Entertainment