If you are a gay black man (or if your spirit animal would be in a Paris Is Burning remake), the talented one from Danity Kane has made an album just for you.
Beyonce who? This is truly the diva all the Children should be obsessing over. I have never in my life danced so hard to an R&B album. This will be my workout CD until further notice. I cannot stress how flawlessly Dawn Richard has combined percussive dance beats with emotional R&B. This isn’t dance music for pop fans. This isn’t R&B pitched for a pop market or pop with an R&B feel. This is R&B music…for people who want to really dance. This is Get It Done music. Put your hair in a ponytail, put your heels to the side, put on the Stank Face, and PUT IN WERQ.
No one but a dancer could make an album with this much movement, but still grounded in R&B. The beats may be house, but the songs are pure soul music and there isn’t an ounce of fat on this album. Each track is completely necessary, even the intro.
Intros are usually weak, but Dawn sets up the album perfectly with “Call to Hearts.” It’s rare to find a track that you could chill out to as easily as you could choreograph some serious dance moves to, but that’s what she does on the intro and it’s the perfect appetizer for the rest of the album. The energy continues to build through “Black Lipstick” (which is a little reminiscent of the UK two-step of the early 00s) and hits its peak with the lead single “Bombs.” It’s full of attitude and swagger, but not quite as easily accessible as some of the other tracks on the EP. It takes a few listens to settle in completely, but the reward is well worth taking the time to really dig into.
“Automatic” and “Change” give you a little time to catch your breath—if you want. The rest of the EP hands you a choice depending on your mood: You can chill, or you can continue to dance. The beats are all there under the surface with R&B layered on top. Dawn really brings it home at the end with the trifecta of “Heaven,” “Faith,” and “Scripture.” ”Heaven” brings in a male voice to duet with Dawn’s supple alto over the most seductive beat on the album. ”Faith” kicks it up a notch with handclaps and a lot of bass, then “Scripture” takes the album down to the cool-down, pulling out some old-school Sade tricks with lyrics that could just as easily be about God as they could be describing a relationship.
Pop music and dance music is very bright. You think strobe lights and glitter and happy, smiling people. This is dance music for a dark room, for a rainy night, for a basement party, and for the after-hours club. There’s nothing bright and glittery about any of this. Dawn Richard has managed to put two of my favorite things together—soulful R&B and music you can dance to—and made a sound all her own. Armor On is supposed to be the first of three EPs before her full-length debut later this year. I have my fingers crossed, but I don’t see how she could possibly top this perfection.