The versatility of a growing musical veteran
Dawn Richard has proven herself to be a versatile artist for the last 20 years as a singer, songwriter, actress, dancer, model and animator. Born in one of the most innovative cities for music, the New Orleans native has an unorthodox sound of electro mixed with Creole bounce culture and a dash of soul/indie. Since the 2012 disbanding of her pop group Danity Kane, Richard’s career has been at somewhat of a stagnant halt, especially for financial reasons. However, her sixth studio album Second Line, released on April 30, 2021, gave Richard the opportunity to showcase her evolution as a recording artist.
The 16-track album, filled with spoken word and storytelling, is the embodiment of the avant-garde music style of the place she calls home, with her own twist. With a multifaceted fusion of funk, hip-hop, electro and soul, Second Line’s sound embraces the New Orleans tradition of constant music no matter the occasion—gathering as a unit to dance, mourn or celebrate.
As Richard’s voice freely runs and bounces through the beats, “Nostalgia” is overflowing with artfully placed melodies and catchy repetitive lyrics. “Bussifame,” posing as one of the most eclectic songs of the album, switches from grime to soul to the percussion melodies of Creole/Black sounds.
A recurring pattern throughout the album is a conversation that comes in and out between Richard and a female narrator. It’s evident by “Mornin | Streetlights” that the woman is her mother, which serves as a storytelling element. Broken into halves with differing moods and tones, this song not only showcases the range of Richard’s talent but of human emotions. The first half, “Mornin,” is a sensual but sunny mood then morphs to a dark, heavy mood during “Streetlights.”
Once again, expressing the complications of human emotions and heartbreak, “Le Petite Morte” samples from the melancholic composition “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven. “I’ve been battered and bruised/ I’m too good to be this used,” Richard pleads for fair treatment and compassion from a toxic lover.
With lyrics such as “I really think it’s time/ For us to bump and grind/ Ride the pony Ginuwine,” the fifth song of Second Line has a naturally sensual appeal. Her strong voice dwindling over a heavy bass then transitioning into a dance tone, “Pressure” transports the mind to a club in New Orleans or to the beach in the Caribbean. “Voodoo,” both an intermission and outermission, and “Pilot,” an interlude, reveal that Richard was sure to take her time in the flow and placement of this album.
If the moment called for a slower mood or there was a ripe opportunity for Richard’s personal emotions to shine, Second Line was evidently far from rushed as a piece of reflection in many different ways. The moods, tones and ethereal spoken words/conversations are euphorically scattered to be in sequence with one another. Each track of the album tells the story of Richard’s confidence as an artist who not only has broken out of her stagnant shell but solely creates for her own satisfaction and love for the craft.