DAWN, “new breed”

DAWN
new breed
LOCAL ACTION/OUR OWN ENT.
7/10

Dawn Richard, a.k.a. DAWN, has released a project loaded with feminist anthems to begin the year. The singer-producer first earned musical success as a member of Danity Kane before going solo in 2011. Now, she’s using her fifth full-length album to share the wisdom she’s gained while working in an oft-hostile industry.

The project starts strong with “the nine (intro).” Richard goes a capella to mimic melodic percussion instruments—like vibraphones or hand bells—that bounce while she reminisces about her childhood in New Orleans. In “we, diamonds,” the artist swaps her melodic vocals for a spoken-word flow that moves over a riff of rich major piano chords: “I’m used to being the underdog / ’Cause black girls who have minds and a cause are stifled with leashes and cliches,” she shares, before breaking into an encouraging anthem for all women who have struggled to succeed.

Despite its cohesive narrative, a lot of new breed feels overproduced. In “spaces,” a simple intergalactic melody plays throughout, while a marching percussion drops off abruptly at various points. Richard’s voice competes with the production instead of complementing it, creating a jarring musical mishmash. The single “jealousy” begins with DAWN’s vocals clashing against a hollow melody and slow-mo masculine voice that reappears during the refrain; the track sort of feels antithetical to the project’s overarching girl power theme, as DAWN sings directly to her love interest’s ex-girlfriend, issuing insults like “Your page don’t even look like you / Them titties looking phony.”

Setting aside its imperfections, the album is wholly enjoyable when odes to funk music liven up its heavy pop sound. Two tracks, “dreams and converse” and “shades,” are so dancy it’s nearly impossible to avoid tapping your feet to the beat. The album essentially details DAWN’s niche journey as an independent black female artist from New Orleans—but many listeners will resonate with new breed’s central thesis: “I am a lion / I am a woman / Nothing can stop me / I do what I wanna.”

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