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EP Review: Dawn Richard - 'Armor On'

A New Direction

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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EP Review: Dawn Richard - 'Armor On'
After previous stints in the groups Danity Kane and Diddy-Dirty Money, singer-songwriter Dawn Richard is officially a solo artist now and in control of her own musical destiny. And on her new 10-song EP, Armor On, Dawn takes advantage of her new freedom to record and release songs that are quite different from the pop and hip-hop tracks she had been best known for until now. Armor On, independently released through iTunes on March 27, 2012, is at various times moody, atmospheric, futuristic, hypnotic and highly danceable. The EP, which was fully overseen by Dawn in collaboration with producer Druski, is a bold step in a new direction for her as an artist, a direction that may not be as commercially viable as her previous work, but is much more honest and real.

Dark, Futuristic

Remember how in decades past, great R&B singers were known for primarily working with one producer? You had the Alicia Keys and Krucial Brothers partnership in the 2000s, the Aaliyah and Timbaland combo in the 1990s, and the Teena Marie and Rick James connection in the 80s, just to name a few successful musical partnerships. Well, Armor On is sort of a throwback to that method of music making. Rather than enlisting a battalion of producers to complete one or two tracks each, Dawn Richard worked on the project from start to finish with one man, Grammy-nominated producer Druski, who's previously worked with ex-Destiny's Child members LeToya Luckett and Michelle Williams, among others. The album's dark, futuristic sound is maybe best exemplified by "Black Lipstick," a song where Dawn sings about how she found herself intrigued, then seduced and betrayed by the music industry, which comes to her in the form of a mysterious woman: "She ice-skated on my heart, couldn't feel the blades," Dawn sings over an intricate bass-and-drum beat. Other songs deserving of special mention are "Heaven," a smooth, icy cold electronic dance track featuring Druski on the chorus; and the relationship song "Automatic," which has a type of deep space android beat that Janelle Monae would probably love.
Despite the new direction however, Dawn hasn't completely left her roots in the hip-hop world completely behind. The album's third track, "Bombs," is a bold, braggadocios song where the singer goes lyrically ballistic over a military cadence-inspired beat: "Just feed me beats and watch me eat up all ya'll/Fresh off the leash, I'm such a monster," she sings. "Bombs away, just give me that boom-boom bass, and watch a m*therf*cker lose his face."
The pairing of Dawn's sweetly seductive vocals with Druski's next-level production may be a little futuristic for some, but for those who aren't tied to cookie-cutter, generic R&B or enjoy dance music, Armor On, is a sonic treat, as well as a welcome break from the same ol' same old.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the artist. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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