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Dawn Richard challenges the definition of R&B with her EP, Armor On. The former Danity Kane and Dirty Money diva isn't serving up classic soul-drenched records on this project—she's putting her own spin on a brand of music that has a place for R&B-heavy ballads, pop tunes, and dance sensibilities. The EP, which was produced primarily by Druski—he crafted nine of the 10 tracks, Rick Rude helmed "Faith"—is a prelude to her full-length solo debut, GoldenHeart.
Throughout the impressive body of work, the New Orleans native addresses broken relationships, the temptation of the music industry, a positive support system, and true romance. The soundscapes Druski offers never drown Dawn's vocals, but rather serve as the bed for her poignant lyrics to rest on.
Rap-Up.com prepares you for the battle ahead by delivering a track-by-track preview of Armor On, which will be available exclusively on iTunes on March 27. While she's moved on from Diddy and Bad Boy after six years—the split was amicable—it's for good reason. Dawn proves she shines best as a solo entity.
1. "Intro (Call to Hearts)"
Dawn is calling out to her "Hearts"—the name she dubs her fans—on this introductory track. While the beat throbs with urgency—the sound is reminiscent of a ticking clock—listeners are brought into the singer's world. "We need armor. I need armor," she coos before the track takes a turn toward a drum and bass sound.
2. "Black Lipstick"
Druski serves up a frenetic drum and bass-tinged beat on this ode to the music business. The title alone suggests Dawn should be singing of painted faces, but she's actually serving up lyrics that compare the music industry to a tempting and mysterious woman. "My heart was running, running, running away from nowhere/ She caught me off guard from afar in the distance without saying a word from her lips," she sings.
This tune serves as the lead single from Armor On, and it's a suitable choice considering Dawn is ferocious here. She's confident, her lyrics are packed with punch, and her vocals ride the explosive beat. "Fresh off a leash, I'm such a monster," "Y'all throwin' shade, but I'm so summer," and "Just feed me beats and watch me eat up all y'all" are just some of the lines she delivers before the catchy chorus kicks in.
When this mid-tempo track commences, an alarm rings as a warning to the man in Dawn's life, one who thinks he can treat her like a switch—turn her on and off at his leisure. She's not heartbroken over his ways, but rather has turned stone cold. She feels artificial when loving her boo now and this is Dawn's lyrical "fuck you." She sums it up best with, "I'ma do me, you can do you."
Dawn is an R&B artist at heart, but this beat is far from the standard soul tune. An uptempo ditty, the songbird shines over the driving beat. "I don't know if he knows he's a diamond in the rough/ 'Cause he's used to me showing him that he's not enough/ Need to start showing him everyday/ If he was religion I'd be the faith," she commands. Dawn admits that she has to change her ways to make this relationship flourish.
6. "Heaven" feat. Druski
A slower number, Druski steps from behind the boards as producer and gives Dawn a vocal assist. They trade lines over the bongo-heavy beat, which house music lovers will take delight in listening to. Dawn opens up about a romance that once was, thinking back on how she gave her all but the man in her life walked out the door.
Rick Rude produced this jam, an uptempo track that could sit easily on the dance charts. Dawn's versatility on record is refreshing—she can rock an R&B song to the core as much as she can work vocals on a tune that would mix well with a Calvin Harris record. The singer celebrates the faith that a supportive soul has in her. "A toast to you/ I'm OK but with you I'm perfection," she sings.
Guitars drive the track as Dawn's breathy lyrics describe yet another relationship, this time one she compares to religion. "If his love has a description/ It'd be the secret to my soul/ I look to him in reverence/ I'm kneeling at his presence," she croons. She worships his love and is prepared to make a confession, however, the disclosure she leaves up to her lover.
9. "S.M.F.U. (Remix)"
Originally released last fall, "Save Me From You" showcased the singer's vulnerability. She wore her emotions on her sleeve when singing of a dude that continuously let her down then, and now, she's doing much of the same on the remix. The ballad finds her recalling how her heart was tossed in the flames and the Superman she adored never once lived up to his name.
10. "Outro (The Battle)"
The final track on the EP, Dawn wraps with this statement: "When it's all said and done, we'll let them know." The songstress never reveals just what she'll let people know over the steady rhythm, but we'll assume she's referring to her effortless talents, which sparkle throughout the 10 tracks comprising Armor On.