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Dawn Richard - Second Line (Album Review)

Wednesday, 12 May 2021 Written by Milly McMahon

Dawn Richard is a resilient, gifted musical entity. Persistently misunderstood by the industry throughout a six album solo career that followed the end of a run in the reality TV-founded girl group Danity Kane, the frustrations that have followed her since she departed from Diddy's Bad Boy label fuel her wildly inspired new LP ‘Second Line’.

Made up of 16 tracks, including multiple spoken word pieces, electro-R&B, house beats, experimental soundscapes and more, here Richard uses powerful metaphors to pin her thoughts to her music.

Two figures are central to the record’s themes: Dawn’s mother, who serves as narrator of sorts, and the character King Creole, a half-android, half-human hero, whom Dawn uses to demonstrate how vexed her experiences of the overwhelmingly white music industry have left her. 

Radio Free feels like an epitaph for the hope that things will change for the better: “They only love her if she making money. When it stops, they looking for the next honey. Now you're walking around saying fuck the industry.” Her anger is palpable, and her words are searingly direct.

But a song like Perfect Storm, positioned towards the end of the LP, feels like the ideal remedy to the fast-paced turmoil that has punctuated our path to this point. Its minimalist sense of calm makes the colours pop elsewhere.

There are so many humbling messages delivered throughout ‘Second Line’, with Richard’s lyric sheet moving from racism to motherhood and female empowerment via a celebration of her roots in New Orleans culture. Richard discusses her lived experiences, asking questions of her audience, encouraging us to think deeply about how they too have felt when overlooked or undervalued. Diving into this record is a beautiful experience; a sensory overload of stratospheric words and sounds.

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