Dawn Richard – #ATellTaleHeart | Mixtape Review

Dawn Richard knows pop. Burrowing into the hearts (and psyches) of fans since her days battling hundreds of other girls and her own demons for a spot in the now defunct platinum-selling group Danity Kane, Richard quickly emerged as the most unique voice and compelling personality. We’ve watched her maneuver with great agility and innovation (a visual artist, Richard even created a manga comic book series, complete with soundtrack, based on a character she drew) to remain relevant.

Landing in Diddy’s latest musical incarnation, Diddy-Dirty Money, Richard has not slowed down. Fueled by a genuine love of singing and songwriting coupled with a shrewd work ethic, Richard released A Prelude to #ATELLTALEHEART: the mixtape. Playing like a diary, #ATELLTALEHEART is the story of Richard’s struggle to stay afloat both professionally and personally. “It’s about my journey, my pain, my redemption, but above all my strength,” the svelte singer says. 

From its inception that sentiment is apparent. The space-age military march of “Intro (The Fall)” is an invitation to go along for her ride. Let’s escape/would that be okay She asks with an earnestness that hinges on bossy sass. “Superman” is a gnawing alarm clock clang, threatening the listener to keep up or be left behind. Its rapid-fire aggression sets the stage for the braggadocios “Runway” (sure to be a U.S. club hit), the flirty videogame bounce of “Biggest Fan” and the driving bass of two-step friendly “Hey”. Tired of doing good/I want great Richard sings, sliding her smooth vocals underneath the bumping beat produced by Atlanta’s BlaqSmurph.

Still spinning from the dizzying high of new love the listener is dropped off into what is arguably the strongest track of the mixtape, “Me, Myself and Y”. Produced by The B-Boys, this melancholy tune is part fight song, part compassionate break-up ballad, and brimming with achy angst, a total pop anthem.

Dawn Richard – “Me, Myself and Y”:

#ATELLTALEHEART takes a turn directly into delicious dysfunction with “I Know”, a duet with Richard’s Dirty Money counterpart Kalenna Harper, a lush last-ditch attempt at saving this dying relationship from heady mistakes in a blur of drunken promises, and “I’m Just Sayin” a hazy, rewinding reprimand.

The haunting “Broken Record” stubbornly skips into producer ΛNONYMOUS’ symphonic strings, the perfect undercurrent to the confusion of a crumbling love affair. I don’t wanna have to start all over again/You use it against me because you know me, the singer laments before she completely drowns in the sappy and deeply personal “These Tears”.

Not exactly R&B, pop or dance, Richard calls #ATELLTALEHEART a “compilation of emotions and feelings” It’s unclear what the listener is to feel during “Superhero”, a dynamic display of Richard’s vocal range that is unnecessarily buried underneath auto-tune (for a clearer demonstration of her skill see “Champion”).

The high points of #ATELLTALE’s diversity are showcased in two other very strong tracks however, the swaying “Let Love In” with its infectious hook and almost calypso sensibilities and the super-sexy “Vibrate”. Produced by Chicago-bred, Los Angeles based duo Da Internz, “Vibrate” is oozing with smart suggestiveness, showcasing Richard’s bright falsetto.

“Bulletproof” another ΛNONYMOUS track, is a slow-boiling movie score, boasting the calm redemption of a warrior’s triumph; a song Richard, a New Orleans native, wrote right after experiencing the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. “I felt that in this industry everyone had an opinion about me, mainly negative, but in the midst of it all, I am still here.”

A rhythmic storybook, #ATELLTALEHEART is worth the read.

DOWNLOAD: Dawn Richard – #ATellTaleHeart [Mixtape]

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