Ohhh, the 90's. The music, the fashion, the style... it was all great. Our Respect The Classics contest is bringing it all back for us and we want you all to participate in the fun! Read about our contest here and then right-click and download one of the memes below to share or use them as your profile picture!
Custom memes created by Phil Quinal.
When a hit song can keep your head nodding years after its release, and remembering all the lyrics is like a badge of honor -- you know you are dealing with a classic. Great music lives forever; and this month we are paying homage to hip hop + R&B with our #RespectTheClassics contest.
Respect the Classics is a campaign with special edition releases from Universal Music Enterprises (UMe), saluting hip-hop’s finest. UMe’s extensive catalogue includes iconic albums from the Def Jam, Interscope, Priority, and Virgin Records vaults. Titles like the 25th Anniversary Editions of Eazy-E’s triple platinum solo debut, Eazy-Duz-It, Ice Cube’s solo debut, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, and N.W.A’s iconic, triple-platinum Straight Outta Compton, to name a few. UMe is also re-issuing many albums this coming year, including Kanye West’s 808’s and Heartbreaks, 2Pac’s Greatest Hits, and Eminem's Slim Shady LP.
When we heard about what they were doing, we knew we couldn’t pass up the chance to collaborate with them and show our respect too -- because, hey, we love good music. Their fresh and creative campaign is giving new life to the jams we love. Now, artists and fans alike can join in and potentially become a part of music history.
The submissions are in, and we're loving what we're seeing! From drawings, to jam sessions to belly dancing (yes, belly dancing!) -- you've truly shown us that you #RespectTheClassics. Now, we have to choose a winner! We posted the top entries on our Facebook page, where you can vote for your favorites. Tell us who you want to see win big. Voting ends Friday, February 28th at noon PST and the winner will be announced shortly thereafter. Click here to vote: http://bit.ly/MW-RTC-VOTE
Entrants can draw inspiration from any of the following albums:
Official Respect the Classics Titles
Additional UMe Catalog Titles
Let your talent shine through. If your entry is chosen, you’ll win the following:
No purchase is necessary to enter or win the #RespectTheClassics contest. The contest is open to anyone over 18 years of age at time of entry who is a resident of the fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia.
The contest is sponsored by Made Woman, LLC and will begin on Monday, February 10 2014 at 9am PST.
Submission period will run from February 10th at 9am PST to February 23rd at 11:59pm PST.
Photos will be posted in a gallery on the Made Woman Facebook & on the Respect The Classics Facebook page.
The winner will be announced Friday, February 28th.
Please note: all entries received may be re-posted on any of Made Woman's current or future social media outlets indefinitely and/or posted on Made Woman Magazine's website at a later date. If an entry is posted and/or re-tweeted, only the entrant’s first name or Twitter handle will be posted in conjunction with the entry.
Winner will be selected by the Made Woman & Respect the Classics teams, based on quality of entry and the concept originality. Made Woman, LLC reserves the right to select a winner based on their criteria. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. Participant is providing information to Made Woman Magazine and not to Facebook.
By entering the Respect the Classics contest, entrants are opting into the Made Woman & Respect the Classics email lists.
By entering this giveaway, entrants accept and agree to these rules.
Rachel Garcia and Thu Tran are The Singer & The Songwriter. The duo’s California-folk whimsy updates the swinging sounds of the gypsy jazz of the 1930s and ‘40s; a style that even in its heyday marched to its own beat, so to speak. Garcia’s sultry and booming jazz vocals are the anchor of the duo. A choir singer from a young age, it’s no wonder where Garcia learned to develop her standout voice. I first stumbled upon the duo at the modest 2nd Annual Make Music LA event in Silverlake earlier this summer. The acoustic event was little more than a rug to stand on for the would-be troubadours of the day. It was difficult to hear the day’s acts above the careening shopping carts and murmurs of the Friday afternoon weekend seekers; but Rachel Garcia was not only heard -- she put an exclamation point on the day with her richly textured voice.
As independent musicians in this niche genre, it’s fitting then that The Singer and The Songwriter display a special kind of moxie and are charting their own course without the backing of a major label. "There are a lot of unknowns and fear in being an independent artist, but the other side of the coin is the creative freedom [...] I get to choose who I want to be, what I want to sing and how I want to present myself. The effect that this freedom has is you learn to trust and rely on yourself and your band mate." Garcia and her partner in crime,“Songwriter” and guitarist, Thu Tran began playing together in 2009 in San Francisco. After, a move to Los Angeles the duo hit their stride and have spent the last two years writing and recording. The Singer and The Songwriter are now primed to release their first full-length album, What A Difference A Melody Makes. Just recently the outfit launched their Kickstarter campaign in an effort to put the finishing touches on their LP. The ingenuity and creativity of The Singer and The Songwriter are what enable the duo to carve out a path distinctly and charmingly their own.
The wildcard that also makes The Singer and The Songwriter one to watch in the folk scene is the album’s producer, Charlie Stavish. Stavish has worked on albums for bands such as Imagine Dragons, Foster The People, and The Joy Formidable. With a delicate hand to polish off the album, The Singer and The Songwriter could be ready to breathe new life into LA’s folk scene.
Powerhouse vocalist Cheesa first came into our homes on last season’s The Voice. The Honolulu native swept Cee Lo off his feet at her blind audition with her rich and soulful voice. He gushed, “You could go on from here to be everything you were meant to be.” Now at 22, Cheesa has released her debut album Naked via her own independent label. It’s reminiscent of 90’s R&B/Pop vocalists like Mariah Carey and Brandy, and features catchy hooks and sweeping melodies bolstered by vibrant, unflappable beats. Her journey to entrepreneurship and the music industry was by no means an easy one. Her family was plagued by financial hardships, converting their home into an elder care facility and moving themselves into the garage to pay their mortgage. Despite her parent’s initial hesitancy and the strong Filipino traditions which pointed to a more traditional career, Cheesa’s family moved from Hawaii to Los Angeles for her to pursue a career in music. We recently caught up with her to chat about the new album and her newfound exposure.
1. You’re just back from a stint doing shows and press in Hawaii, where you’re originally from. What’s your favorite activity or food spot to hit up when you go back home?
There’s so many things that you can do and so many things that you should eat. But my favorite, and I think a lot of locals can agree, is Kahuku shrimp. You can either go to Romy’s or Giavonni’s shrimp truck. And you also have to hit up THE BEST - Masumoto’s Shaved Ice. What I like to do is go to the beach. It’s quite as simple as that.
2. How old were you when your family moved to LA? What was that transition like for you?
I just turned 16 about 2 weeks before we moved to LA. It was such a culture shock. I went to an all girls Catholic school in Hawaii, so to go to a coed public school [in LA]...I think I had way too much freedom. I kind of wilded out. It’s definitely difficult to adapt.
3. What is The Assembly?
The Assembly is the production company that I’m in. One day we just decided let’s do it; let’s produce songs, make albums, and just go full force with it. We never thought that it would become this serious, so for us to produce a full-length album is really surreal. [It’s] gratifying that we have everything on iTunes and people from around the world are appreciating the music that we put out there.
4. What is your creative experience like? Where do you find the balance within The Assembly, as far as who writes, who mixes, produces, etc?
It’s a very collaborative effort and everybody has their certain niche. I think we mesh well together because everybody has a specific role.
5. You mentioned your brother, Troy who is also a musician and music director, and has toured with the likes of Demi Lovato , David Archuleta, and Cherice (aka Sunshine Corazon from Glee). Is music something that your parents impressed upon you two growing up?
It was something we were introduced to by my dad who also sang when he was young, but it was never really an option to be a career choice. Because my dad sacrificed a lot for us, he was more expecting us to be in the medical field or in law, something more stable, and, from his standpoint, more realistic. He never really wanted to see us struggle because he knew how hard it was to struggle in his own life, living in the Philippines. But after a lot of convincing he agreed to move to LA so we could pursue music.
6. Being from a close-knit Filipino family, did your parents have a reaction to your rather provocative album cover?
[Laughs] I remember the day after we got it, I remember thinking this is really controversial and I was really scared to show my mom. But surprisingly the one that we thought was going to be more mad about it was the one who was more accepting. My dad was like, she’s not really showing anything.
7. Was there a moment or battle for you on The Voice that was particularly challenging?
It was my first time ever doing things on my own. My brother and I have been performing for quite some time as a duo. And as I was in a competition show, social media is such a big outlet for people to express themselves. It’s an open forum for people to talk negatively and positively, and it was my first time seeing all these comments. I don’t think anyone can mentally prepare themselves for that, so that was a big challenge for me. It was like a flashback to times in my childhood where I was bullied, so it was definitely challenging. It actually led to one of the songs on the album “I’m Not Perfect.” I want to inspire people to accept themselves and love themselves despite all the flaws and insecurities. You’re still beautiful.
8. Your single “Crash Boom” (my personal favorite) features Jamar Rogers from your season on The Voice. Are you still in contact with a lot of your teammates/ Cee Lo?
I just recently watched Cee Lo’s show in Vegas, Loberace. Great show! And I do keep in contact with a lot of people, Anthony Evans, Jamar obviously...we become so close being on the show. I’ve gained a lot of good friends from being on that show.
9. Where does the album title, Naked come from?
Naked was not meant to be that controversial. For me Naked meant stripping out the outside layers and the perception that people had of me. It was being able to use this album as a therapeutic journey to reveal my soft side. It was to inspire women, most importantly young girls, because society shows that women should look thin when really all sizes, all shapes, all colors should be accepted. Thats what I wanted the album to be about - for people to accept who they are and not be afraid to show it.
10. How has the post The Voice experience been for you?
I love the show. It gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of great people, Cee Lo and all the other great coaches and it opened doors for me. I would have never gotten the opportunities that I get now to travel around the world and sing, to be interviewed by people like you. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity and now I get to live out my dream.
For more of Cheesa be sure to catch her upcoming summer promo tour on both on the west coast and in Asia. More details to follow on her websites.
I never had a problem disliking Taylor Swift because she was always “Country.” They say that Country music is the most popular genre. Now I don’t know who “they” are, but I’m pretty sure they’re the same liars that tell us that kale is delicious, and we probably want to eat it in chip form now too. Way to ruin chips. But then, Taylor Swift had to get all mainstream on us, and the earth shifted on its axis. Now whenever I hear “I Knew You Were Trouble” on the radio, I begrudgingly have to stop. Why? Because it is just so damn catchy and innocuous. Taylor doesn’t even sing. She talks her way through this entire number, and somehow I'm not even bothered by that. I mean she is faking it Rebecca Black-style, and yet, I’ll still “Ooo” along. Damn her.
Tegan and Sara is the musical equivalent of driving through the pouring rain in an old Volvo station-wagon. Its crass, depressing, filled with teenage angst - and yet despite all that - provides you with a small ounce of fun. The sisterly duo, however, has recently put their trademark sound through the ringer. But it came out the other side drenched in an undeniable pop-synth sheath that can get you through even the worst day at work.
Robyn certainly has gone through a transformation over the last 15 years, but it is hard to forget her late ‘90s Show Me Love phase. Seventh-grade me was way too cool for that brand of generic pop. That said, I do have to give it to her. No song better travels from the club dance floor, to your own bedroom dance party in nothing but undies and a bra, better than Dancing on My Own. Lena Dunham got one thing right when they featured the song on HBO’s Girls episode 3. Bad mood, good mood - sometimes girls just wanna dance with their best friends.
Its Whitney, B*%ch. Unwieldy hair. Giant bows. Saxophone interlude. An incomparable voice. Cheesy lyrics. It’s terrible and amazing, all at the same time. I’ll dance to it anytime.
No one quite does a sappy ballad like Seal. If there was one song that was played to death throughout my adolescence, and can remind me that no one wanted to dance with me in middle school, it was this one. I get misty every time. But then again, who doesn’t love a good, cathartic cry...
Speaking of crying, that b*%ch Sia haunts my dreams with this tearjerker. With its sweeping strings and driving piano melancholia, when I listen to Breathe Me, I cry until I don’t even know what I’m crying for. She’s gone a little pop-y these days, but before Sia was writing hooks for Ne-Yo, she ripped our hearts out with this track. Don’t get me wrong here, I am in no way ashamed of my love for Sia - just don’t tell anyone how weepy I get at the song’s crashing crescendo, okay?
With an eclectic style that won’t be tamed, Dezi Paige explores a range of musical styles in her debut, the recently released, Tall Tales. Paige was born to the into a Psychedelic Rock family; she is the daughter of David Getz, the drummer of Big Brother and the Holding Company, where Janis Joplin cut her teeth. With a best friend kind of ease about her, Paige shared with me how her father’s early influence and her world travel have informed her musical styles. I recently spoke with this up-and-coming Rock/Soul artist and asked her 10 questions about her life and her music:
1. What’s in heavy rotation on your iPod right now?
One of my favorites is Tame Impala, Lonersims. Jack White. Ty Segall, with his Twins album. I am loving Beach House. My friend India Shawn released an EP called Origins and my friend Rich King is an amazing artist out here in LA and he released an EP.
2. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small town called Fairfax [California], which is in west Marin County. It’s this funky little hippy-dippy town. It’s really special.
3. Your dad famously drummed for the psychedelic rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company, which also featured an up-and-coming Janis Joplin. Do you find a lot of your influences come from your Dad? Or are you musically spurred by other artists that you might have grown up listening to?
That’s a great question. I think I naturally was influenced by Janis and Big Brother and the Holding Company. [My father] also started me early on The Beatles. Big Brother was probably one of my very very musical first influences. I heard the music from Cheap Thrills like Piece of My Heart, Down on Me, and all those other classic Big Brother songs, so many times just tagging along to these shows when I was little had a big influence on me. That early psychedelic rock.
4. You have this one interlude track on your mix-tape called Beginnings. It’s a clip of a little girl, maybe five years old, which I assume is you, recording with her father. Can you tell me about your first experiences playing music?
Yeah (laughs)! Yeah that’s me, you’re right. Its actually funny, I didn’t realize a lot of people would not realize it was me. I thought it was so obvious. I’m glad you got it. My memories are kind of blurry, but I guess that’s when you could say a started writing and singing. You know, I was like six years old. I would go to the downstairs of our house, that’s where my dad had all his instruments and recording equipment. I remember putting on these big ol’ headphones and sitting there and just kind of singing freestyle -- a stream of thought thing. And he still has all of it.
5. Now I read that you went to UCLA. I’m just going to lay it out there - I’m a USC Trojan, along with many of the other Made Woman ladies. So I’m just going to call a universal truce. But in all seriousness, can you talk a little bit about your time in school - were you a music major? How did you find your college experiences influenced your progression as an artist?
Funny enough I was not a music major, I was a dance major. I was accepted to the World Arts and Culture program at UCLA.
I find inspiration from all forms of art. Especially because I’ve been a performing arts person my whole life. Dance, acting, music, it’s all related to me. It definitely influenced my music. I came back into music about halfway through college. It’s hard to pinpoint and describe but college is definitely a character builder. The amazing thing that I really appreciate I got to do through this program is to go to Senegal to study dance and language there. All these things, you may not realize what it means at the time but there’s a power in it, definitely, it all is influential and inspirational.
6. The name of your debut album is Tall Tales. What does Tall Tales mean to you?
Well, Tall Tales (The Sky is Falling) is the name of one of the songs on the project. It probably is my favorite. That song really meant a lot to me and it embodied a theme that is a thread throughout the project. Tall tales a are mythical stories. They’re lies, but they contain an element of truth in them. I wrote it after I had been in a situation that left me heartbroken. Looking back on love, and the innocence with which you look at love at certain points in your life, and then having that - those dreams - crushed for you. There’s an element of truth sometimes, but it’s not what you thought it was.
7. You have a lot of musical influences on the album and you tread a lot of cover material in your mix-tape as well (Bob Marley, Coldplay). What genre do you find the most fun to perform?
I love all genres and that’s why my project is eclectic, like you said. I love mixing them all. Different styles of music speak to you at different times in your life, different days of your life and that’s why it’s so beautiful. Last year I was in a really rock n’ roll state of mind. That was what really got me going.
8. There is a lot of pigeon holing in the music business, for women especially. You know, “She’s a Britney type,”or an “Alicia Keys type,” or “A Beyonce”, etc, What do you think is important for women to do in order to set themselves apart in the business?
I think for women, it goes for men as well, to set yourself apart think about what do you have to say. What is your voice? What is your contribution? Be authentic. Be honest. I think that will always set you apart. I think there's still too much in the industry of chasing current musical trends when, in my mind, what has always won and stood the test of time throughout the history of music, is an authentic voice.
9. You’ve worked with some great artists already in a relatively young career - JR Hutson produced Tall Tales, you’ve worked with Frank Ocean who just had a huge year with his Grammy noms - Who would be a dream collaboration for you?
As far as producers go, for a long time I’ve really wanted to work with Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson, and also Dangermouse. Greg Kurston. He worked on The Shins last project and does a lot of indie and pop/rock stuff. A dream collaboration would also be Stevie Wonder. He is my idol.
10. Should we keep an eye out for any upcoming shows or tour plans?
I am currently organizing a show, that has been long delayed, for the end of March in Los Angeles. I’ll be posting details on all of my social media sites.
There's a certain amount of audacity required to call yourself a Made Woman. To us, a Made Woman evokes the idea of a boss, an independent thinker, a woman who doesn't take too much BS. If you ask friend of Made Woman Mag, DJ No Req, she's also a bit...gangster.
DJ No Req put together a 25-track, 55 minute live mix that represents his artistic interpretation of a Made Woman, which he entitled Goodladies. A moody, timely piece featuring tracks like HBO's Girls theme song by Santigold, Destiny's Child's Nuclear, Fiona Apple's Every Single Night, and throwbacks like Prince's If I Was Your Girlfriend, there's a little something for everybody. Hope you enjoy! Check out the full tracklist and listen below.
***Warning: as we did not wish to censor DJ No Req's artistic expression, some of what you'll hear may be NSFW.***
1) "MW Goodladies Intro"
2) Shlohmo -- "Laid Out"
3) Santigold -- "Girls
4) MIA -- "Bad Girls" Switch Remix
5) Ryan Hemsworth -- "Cold & Tempted" x Miguel -- "P***y is Mine" No Req Mix
6) Tinashe -- "Boss" Ryan Hemsworth Remix
7) Ryan Hemsworth -- "Late Nite Tip" Remix
8) The XX -- "Angels" Gianni Lee Remix
9) Rihanna -- "Numb"
10) Rihanna -- "Pour it up"
11) Katy B -- "Danger"
12) Tinashe -- "Reverie"
13) Aaliyah -- "Come over"
14) Aaliyah -- "Quit Hatin'" (Unreleased)
15) Outkast -- "Jazzy Belle"
16) Poliça -- "The Maker"
17) Jai Paul -- "Baby Beat"
18) Major Lazer -- "Get Free" x Trapzilla Remix
19) Poliça -- "Leading to Death"
20) Francis and the Lights -- "The Things I Would Do"
21) Justin Timberlake -- "Right for Me"
22) Prince -- "If I was Your Girlfriend"
23) Destiny's Child -- "Nuclear"
24) Fiona Apple -- "Every Single Night" Melo x Remix
25) Santigold -- "Girls Outro"
Thursday, January 10, 2013 started off like any other day. I woke up feeling a little under the weather, hit up 3 different stores looking for flavored coconut water in an attempt to hydrate, failed miserably at finding any at all (really, LA?), then arrived at work unable to find parking. This, my friends, is clearly the life.
As I rode the elevator up to my office, I asked myself if I should just throw in the towel and write Thursday off as a loss, because things were obviously not going to go my way. But then. THEN! I logged into Facebook, and saw a status update from Beyonce. I felt my mind slowly unhinge as I read the following simple, beautiful words: “The first original Destiny's Child music in eight years! Pre-order it at http://smarturl.it/dc_lovesongs_amzn“ I excitedly logged into Gchat to voice my excitement to anyone online that would listen, one of my friends retorted, “As if Justin Timberlake’s announcement about his new album wasn’t enough.” Wait, what? JUSTIN. TIMBERLAKE. NEW. MUSIC. ??? Clearly the universe is trying to give us all a collective heart attack. It’s almost too much to handle. Did Justin and the DC ladies get together and say let’s freak out the entire world today? OK everyone, why is this such a big deal? If you need any sort of reminder on how momentous this is, let’s recap:
From No, No, No to Bills, Bills, Bills, Destiny’s Child (Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams, LeToya Luckett, LaTavia Robertson) proved they were awesome at repeating themselves and also dominating the airwaves. From the very beginning, Beyonce always stood out as the star, and after four albums and a string of hits, it didn’t really hit anyone as a major shock when the group disbanded in early 2001 to embark on solo projects. Michelle Williams achieved success in the gospel circuit, while Kelly Rowland had some hits domestically (most recently, “Motivation”) and achieved even greater success internationally. I don’t really need to say anything about Beyonce. We all know everything she’s been doing because her career skyrocketed and she became one of the biggest superstars in the entire universe, with incredible success in music, movies and everything else you could possibly succeed in. Fans of the group have longed for a reunion ever since they split up officially in 2004, but it didn’t seem in the cards up until very recently. There was a period when it seemed like the girls weren’t really close anymore, and it wouldn’t be hard to imagine some resentments between them. I mean, would you want to stand in Beyonce’s shadow? Yikes. However, the girls have been increasingly publicly friendly and supportive of each other the past few years.
With Beyonce planning her big return to the music scene following some time off to birth the next ruler of the world, aka Blue Ivy, with hubby, Jay-Z, and a hugely anticipated Super Bowl halftime performance in the works for February, this seems like the perfect time for a Destiny’s Child reunion. Their new single, Nuclear, leaked on Friday and that track plus a slew of their hits will be released into an album called Love Songs on January 29th. The single definitely has a 90’s vibe about it, and it’s a smooth sounding mid-tempo track that should make for a sexy, fun performance during the Super Bowl. So get your popcorn ready, the “writings on the wall” (sorry.) are telling me this sh*t is going to change your life. Or at least entertain you for a few minutes.
Much like Beyonce always stood out in Destiny’s Child, Justin Timberlake was arguably the spotlight hog in N’Sync. N’Sync had a crazily successful run, selling 50+ million albums together over the course of their career together. But in 2002 the band said Bye, Bye, Bye to each other (are we sensing a pattern here?) and Justin wasted no time getting to work on his solo material. Can you remember when his first solo single, “Like I Love You” hit the radio? I sure do. I was one of those girls who was so anti-boy band. Then I heard the track and grudgingly admitted to myself that I straight up loved it. His first album solo, Justified, was a huge success.
There was no denying that JT knew what he was doing, and his follow-up album, Future/Sex Love Sounds cemented him as a solo star sex god from the heavens. After touring to support the album, Justin, now at the absolute top of his solo career, did the only logical thing he could do at that point. He said, “f*&k this, I need to act now.” He announced his hiatus from music in 2004. Since then, he’s been in several movies and occasionally pops up in other people’s songs, but he has shown no interest in putting out his own material. In fact, the man always seemed rather annoyed when people would ask him about it. His claim that he just wasn’t ready or inspired enough was repeated so much that his fanbase couldn’t help but write off his return to music as a pipe dream. Which is why the short video he put on YouTube Thursday culminating with him standing at a mic saying, “I’m Ready,” then flashing to a countdown leading up to Sunday, 1/13 at 9PM PST was such a huge surprise. Maybe his marriage to Jessica Biel was the inspiration he needed to get back in the booth.
I logged onto Twitter at 9 on the dot last night and saw Justin share the link to his new song right on time. The song? Suit & Tie featuring none other than Jay-Z. The song doesn’t break any new ground for Justin; it’s the vintage JT/Timbaland combo we all know and love. Not mad at all at the premise -- what woman doesn’t like to get dressed up and go out with a guy in a fresh tux? Jay-Z blessing the track is the icing on the cake. Justin sent out an open letter to his fans with the song, saying he started creating what’s shaping up to be his next album, The 20/20 Experience, back in June, and he promises a “big 2013.” That’s all he’s sharing for now. I, for one, can’t wait to hear what else he’s got for us.
“You can’t wait for someone to deliver your dream.” These are the words of Dawn Richard, and judging from the chat I had with her yesterday, it’s safe to say it’s also her life’s motto. Since just 2005, we’ve watched in awe as the Nolia-bred powerhouse beat out thousands of contestants to secure her spot in the platinum-selling girl group Danity Kane, survived Hurricane Katrina, toured with Diddy himself as part of the super group Diddy Dirty Money, got “dropped” from Interscope (more on that later) and--without skipping a beat--went on to launch her solo career...without a major label. The average person might be exhausted just thinking about the energy that would take. But just this week, we’ve seen her extraordinary efforts validated as her new EP, Armor On debuted at #1 on the US iTunes R&B/Soul charts and her bossy new video, Bombs, has cyberspace buzzing.
I had the privilege of talking to the refreshingly gracious Miss Richard during what must be a whirlwind of a week, and I could just feel excited energy bubbling out of her. “This feels amazing. Out of all the number ones I’ve had, this feels the most rewarding because it’s my baby. It had no features and it was an EP--not even an album. These numbers confirmed everything the movement and the EP is about.”
The heavily conceptual Armor On EP serves as a prequel to Goldenheart, tentatively slated for Fall 2012. Goldenheart is the first of three full-length albums she plans to release over the next couple of years, and to her, Armor was a natural link from Last Train to Paris to the trilogy. “Everybody has watched me go through what I went through: Making the Band, Katrina, Danity Kane, Dirty Money...people have seen the ups and downs of it so I felt like I had to come from an honest place.”
A diehard literary fan, she fashioned this concept like she would a novel. Above all, she didn’t want it to retell a cliche love story. Armor On is a reflection of what she’s gone through in the industry, “How it’s affected me, how I fell in love with it, how it hurt me, and how I’ve armored myself.... Instead of wallowing in self pity, armor yourself and you don’t have to go through it alone.” As for the sound, she wanted to build a “moody, atmospheric, tribal” experience. And she attributes a large part of this musical landscape to Druski, the Grammy-nominated sole producer of the EP. “He’s so phenomenal--he’s a huge part of the EP, it’s really a collaborative effort. I would be like, ‘I’m thinking of a tribal cave party in 2055..go!’ and he’d come back and it would be exactly in my head how I dreamed it.” She expressed that so many producers are worried about making a “commercial” or “radio” record, but “there’s no limits between him and I.”
Growing up with musical influences like Phil Collins (“I’m a Phil Collins junkie!”), Prince, and Bjork, Dawn knew this wouldn’t be a “comfortable” sound. “We took a risk. People don’t hear R&B like this. But I thought, you know, I could be who everyone thought I was, or I could be who I really am.”
And although she’s spent the last few years constantly in the limelight, many of us still may not know much about who Dawn, the woman, really is. Born to a musical family, her father was also a musician and the director of her church choir, and her mother was a dancer who ran her own studio. It’s not surprising that she proudly credits her parents--who have been together 40+ years--for providing the foundation that has served as the launching pad for her success. “[Music] was always a part of my life.” Beyond the music, her mom appears to have instilled in Dawn the work ethic that has fueled her career. “My mother is a champion. She is beyond amazing. I watched my mother work, create a dancing company by herself while teaching... I watched her build up a life for herself and her family for 51 years, lose everything in Katrina and rebuild everything in another place, and do it all with grace. I wish I could be half the woman she is.” From where I’m sitting, it seems like she’s on the right track.
As a 20-something singer, her list of accomplishments is already long. Multiple number-one singles, platinum selling albums, an EP that has now charted in multiple countries... And let’s not forget being mentored by industry veteran and business mogul, Diddy. But as you might imagine, building a career with Mr. “Bitchassness” wasn’t all roses. “It’s like working with anyone who’s a great mind or who is brilliant. It’s difficult, it’s perfect, it’s abnormal, it’s stupid...all the time. Why would it be anything else when you’re dealing with someone who has an empire?” Still, she says “It was everything it needed it to be because it prepared me for now. I hated it then but I’m thankful for it now.”
Her feelings about her split with him and former label, Interscope Records, are positive as well. “I’m so grateful to Puff for allowing me to go pursue my dream.” She said that after it was clear the Diddy Dirty Money project wouldn’t be continuing on Interscope, there was a decision to make. “Just because I decide I’m a solo artist now doesn’t mean I’m next up [on the roster]. There are acts in the works and people who have been waiting for their spot.” When she spoke to her mentor and realized a new album might not happen for a couple of years, “Puff said, ‘I’m sure you want to come out before that.’ So I made a business decision to protect my brand. I prayed to God that he would let me go and [that he would] be the person everyone thinks he isn’t. But you can’t blame anyone for your own success--you have to go fight for it.” She parted ways with the label in 2011 and is proving to show signs of a solid solo career ahead of her.
So what’s next for the songstress? As far as major labels go, Dawn feels like the release of the EP has relieved some of the pressure. “Now the ball’s in our court. At first it was we need this, we need that. Now I feel we can be independent if we want. Right now I’m going to sit back and be a great artist, take the journey as it comes and just move a little bit easier now that we know the plan works. In these seven months I have a #1 EP with no features. It shows that Puff did his job as a mentor and i did my job as a student.” She’d love to collaborate with Florence and the Machine, J*DaVeY, fun. (“I’m loving the new record with Janelle Monae”) and The Weeknd in the future. But her “biggest dream of all” would be to work with Björk.
As for the future of her career, “Success looks like whatever your heart tells you it is. It’s not measured by how many records you sell or how much money you make. I just want to be happy. If God tells me I’m happy then that’s all I need.”
Check out Dawn working it out in the Bombs video below and preview/purchase her EP here.
"Numb" - Rihanna ft. Eminem -- This song is perfect to listen to while getting ready to go out. There's not much going on by way of lyrics (she says "I'm going numb" for most of the song), but this song is really just all about the vibe/beat. My only complaint is that Eminem's contribution isn't longer.
“Daylight” - Maroon 5 -- I love this track! It’s a great "get-you-in-the-mood" song for a romantic holiday season. Gotta listen to the tunes that remind me why this is the best time of the year.
"Super Rich Kids" - Frank Ocean -- Love the "Bennie and the Jets" nod and the low-key vibe. This selection is perfect to throw on during a late-night work session. I don't think it's possible to get tired of this one.
"Till Dawn (Here Comes The Sun)" - The Weeknd -- I'm a huge Weeknd fan and this is one of three new tracks on his big studio release of remastered tracks from old albums he put out on his own. He sings about being "the other guy" to a woman who comes to him whenever she fights with her boyfriend, and how he's waiting for the night that she's still in his arms when the sun comes up. This is his signature moody type of track, full of vulnerability and longing. And amazingness.
“Paradise” - Coldplay -- I know it's not brand new but it’s one of my faves. They are musical geniuses and the song totally pumps me up.
“I Want You” - Luke James -- This song has been out for a while but whenever I hear it on the radio I turn it up and sing along karaoke style. The soulfulness gets me every time. Gotta love hearing a guy hit those high notes with such clarity and strength. And the lyrics! I thought love songs were dead. Thank you Luke James.
“Miles” - Dawn Richard -- The varying tempos, poignant lyrics and her sultry voice make this song one of my new favorites. Plus I respect that her new EP, Whiteout, offers a fresh take on the traditional Christmas album. Dawn’s music always keeps me on my toes!