The stakes are high on Dawn Richard's debut solo album proper, the first in a planned trilogy following last year's prelude EP, Armor On. Richard depicts herself as a Joan of Arc-style figure waging a holy war in the name of love, and Goldenheart is peppered with battle motifs and religious metaphors. "I faced the Beast with my bare hands," she declares on Goliath; elsewhere, walls crumble, seas are parted and entire nation states are formed.
Goldenheart is a major culmination for Dawn Richard. After Hurricane Katrina left the New Orleans native without a home, the singer and songwriter's career took numerous turns. She released an independent album as Dawn Angelique, made (and even named) Diddy's band (Danity Kane), and co-starred in Diddy-Dirty Money. Too impatient to wait for her creativity to bloom at Bad Boy, she parted amicably from the label and plotted a rebirth as an independent solo artist.
After clocking six years as a member of R&B groups Danity Kane and Diddy-Dirty Money, Dawn Richard left the major label world to make her way in R&B as an indie artist. Her timing couldn't be better: with acts like the Weeknd and Miguel exploring misanthropy and vulnerability in the male psyche, it was about time a melismatic R&B diva took a similarly adventurous direction. Interestingly, the New Orleans native doesn't shy away from the kind of effusive dance tempos typically blamed for sucking the soul out of R&B.
"Get ready for war," Dawn Richard repeatedly intones on the intro to Goldenheart. She takes love very seriously: For Richard, love has been religion, scripture, an all-changing force to be lamented and celebrated at the same time. On her long-awaited second album, it's full-blown warfare. Goldenheart is the culmination of a fruitful few years for the former Danity Kane and Dirty Money singer: She helped to make Diddy's Last Train to Paris fascinating, released one of last year's most stunning R&B records with the Armor On EP, and worked with Israeli house producer Guy Gerber.
On the surface, there's a certain "je ne sais quoi" to former Danity Kane/Ex-Dirty Money singer Dawn Richard's latest effort. Kudos to Richard for getting out of the Diddy shadow, but even after giving the artist the benefit of the doubt, the "quoi" in this instance turns out to be quite bland. "Let's start a riot/Give love a fighting chance," Richard croons on the appropriately titled "Riot" and things rarely get more inspired from there.
From her days in Danity Kane to the one-shot Diddy Dirty Money project and now her burgeoning solo career, Dawn Richard has retained a staunchly middlebrow pop sensibility. Most of these projects have enjoyed commercial success, but beneath the straightforward hooks, an increasingly peculiar pattern of sneaky experimentation has emerged. This is still music for the masses, but it’s also pop product shot through with pronounced strains of alluring weirdness.
Emerging without due fanfare last month, Dawn Richard's GoldenHeart has already set the bar very high for pop this year. It's her second solo album proper, following her 2005 debut Been A While, but she's been in the limelight more recently as a member of Danity Kane, the girl group created on MTV reality show Making The Band and signed to Sean 'Diddy' Combs' Bad Boy Records label. When they split in 2009, she stayed with the mogul to take a place in his collective Diddy-Dirty Money, before leaving in 2010 to dedicate time to her solo material, for which she clearly has a singular vision: GoldenHeart has been released through her own label, and worked on almost entirely with producer Andrew "Druski" Scott, eschewing the wide cast of collaborators that frequently crop up on R&B albums to make for something markedly individual.
Föllakzoid Chilean psych-rock A few years ago a new psychedelic-rock scene emerged in Santiago, Chile, for the second time. Chile once had some great psychedelic- and progressive-rock bands, including Los Jaivas, Aguaturbia and Los Blops, before the military regime drove youth culture underground in 1973. A Santiago label, Blow Your Mind Records, has been sponsoring a return of that aesthetic, and if the acts on the label can be described in general terms, it’s pre-Pinochet hippie universality, plus the early-’70s long-form, motor-rhythm rock of the German bands Can and Neu, plus the ragged stomp and furtive pop instincts of the ’90s American band the Brian Jonestown Massacre.