Sometimes you just want to present an album to people – listeners, reviewers, genre competitors – and say “this is what you need to aspire to.” In Infrared, our lady Dawn Richard (or just Dawn) already crammed in more ideas and breathtaking tangents on R&B than we’ve heard in an age; on Redemption she extends that into an album that’s rich, inventive,and endlessly rewarding.
Which, when you think about modern R&B these days, is a bloody hard thing to do. But Dawn doesn’t chase chart melodies or those hopeless trap-beat bandwagons, instead painting a canvas that remains unpredictable as songs meander to her unique whims. Love Under Lights starts as dance fodder before an instrumental epilogue that feels more at home in an experimental album; Black Crimes and Voices pulse with club-driven fervour, the latter in particular a rousing and layered exercise in reinvention.
That’s not to say she can’t do the commercial thing as well, but even then it has a distinctively Dawn Richard stamp on it. The second act instigates this side of her, with a post-interlude Renegades being as pumping as a lead single ought to be, an anthemic call-to-arms that matches its author’s sense of drama and ambition.
Ambition is certainly something that Dawn has never been short of, and with each successive release it feels like she not only achieves it but also reveals it to be just a fraction of what she still hopes to deliver. As she closes the album with a political stride, she’s gifted us a dark and bluesy Hey Nikki that writhes in epic guitar before The Louvre, her own little masterpiece whose denouement takes in swirls of classical string that lift her sound to celestial heights. Like we said at the beginning, this is what people need to aspire to, and even though the word Redemption sounds like finality in itself, it certainly feels like Dawn is only just getting started.