There really isn’t anyone putting in the amount of effort Dawn Richard is.
To celebrate the release of Redemption, the final installment of her universally acclaimed Heart trilogy, the genre-bending technophile unveiled two bonus cuts and a seven minute VR experience. She reasoned their releases with a simple statement – “You thought we were done? We never really stop.” It’s a quintessential Dawn Richard move, reaffirming the undisputed innovator within her who is persistently at the forefront of creativity.
At times, it feels like Dawn is intentionally connecting Redemption‘s tracks to her previous efforts. The bouncy “Love Under Lights” remembers an enigmatic, alluring female the same way “Black Lipstick” does, and one half expects Dawn to break out into “December Sky” after hearing the “I wanna be with you” melody in “Vines“. “LA” is Redemption‘s “Adderall/Sold“, an angst-fueled confrontational centerpiece. These connections breathe a new kind of life into the “Lazarus” lyric “I didn’t change – I became“. Redemption is still very much Dawn, fusing obscure synth sounds and melodies with distinctive vocal flourishes like she’s always done.
But Redemption also brings about a new Dawn.
Not contempt with purely pushing the boundaries of genre, Dawn also elevates herself to new heights lyrically on Redemption.
The collection’s messages of black and minority power knock as hard as the Machinedrum and Noisecastle III produced beats. “I put a brave face on… can you hear the voices?“, she asks over the intimate collision of hammering bass lines, kick drums and synth blips of “Voices“. “LA” is the most direct with its demands however – “we just wanna know if we matter“, Dawn unapologetically declares across broody electric guitars. The questions are painfully existential, and so incredibly relevant in a world where Donald Trump will be President.
Picking a highlight is always a bona fide challenge with every Dawn Richard record, but even more so with Redemption. Each track emits its own dazzling rays of uniqueness and individuality. There’s the gritty guitars characterizing the freakum number “Hey Nikki“, the chirpy 8bit melodies of “Lazarus” and “The Louvre“‘s stunning portrayal of a flawless yet forbidden love.
Yet only on a Dawn Richard record will you find yourself immeasurably enthralled by an interlude. The melancholic harp plucks of “Lilies” are so entrancing and mesmerizing, completely bringing Dawn’s poignant focal line “I watched the lilies grow, until they got old” to full bloom. It’s a testament to Dawn’s ability to weave full length bops and interludes together for a cohesive body of work to be consumed, something so precious in today’s climate of throwaway radio hits.
Redemption is the celebration of living your truths. Unlike what Dawn was told, she didn’t have to “do the Keyshia Cole-R&B route” to find her voice. So reject boxes (“Vines“) and labels (“Sands“, an obvious nod to personal, musical and record labels). “Escape, escape” she urges during the album’s outro. This is a record about overcoming diversity, for every dreamer and believer out there. It’s about saying “I can”, when the world around you tries to suffocate you with the belief that you can’t. Redemption is an opus encapsulating years of hard work, courage, and resilience, as well as the sheer triumph which comes with living and breathing those achievements.
“They said I’ll never win, but I can“, Dawn sang on “Goliath” from the trilogy’s first installment Goldenheart – and she did.
Listen to Redemption on Spotify as well as “Stars” and “They Think They Know“, the two bonus tracks, on SoundCloud: