***1/2 (out of four)
There aren't many second acts for former stars of non-competition reality TV series. For Dawn Richard, formerly of “Making the Band” group Danity Kane and Bad Boy R&B experiment Diddy-Dirty Money, the story is just getting interesting.
Richard's solo debut, “Goldenheart,” is a fiercely distinct, self-contained hour of freewheeling, genre-bending music. It opens with an interpretation of Phil Collins' “In The Air Tonight,” then plays with sounds that could pass for an Enya/Sade collaboration and dips into the occasional burst of house music. Other “Goldenheart” moments recall those steamy Trey Songz album interludes, flirt with piano ballads or pull a production effect directly from Top 40 pop. Somehow it all comes together in its own wispy, ambient way, particularly on house track “In Your Eyes” and tense sex jam “Tug of War.”
The overall effect is cinematic: This album is self-enclosed and free of anything resembling pressure to meet outside expectations (unlike bands that begin on reality shows, for example). There are no obvious singles, no blatant crossover attempts and no guest artists.
While the promise of the reality show to find the best among us seemed bright in the mid-2000s, the ensuing years have shown that what we really want are the grotesque and the over-the-top. Or at least the unusual. With “Goldenheart,” we have something unusual--the exciting product of someone pointedly striking out on her own. It's adventurous and epic, fun and beautiful.
Kyle Kramer is a RedEye special contributor. @redeyechimusic
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