At this point, it feels borderline-disrespectful to discuss the rocky road that Dawn Richard has journeyed to the present. But the hype around her isn't nearly lofty enough just yet, so it only makes sense to start at the beginning.
Now known as D∆WN, the singer, songwriter and powerhouse entertainer had a humble, very public start as a member of the short-lived girl group Danity Kane, hand-picked on MTV's Making The Band in 2005 by hip-hop mogul and everyone's pretend uncle, Diddy. After the group disbanded, D∆WN was in yet another short-lived group: Diddy - Dirty Money, alongside rapper and fellow singer-songwriter Kalenna Harper. The group's foundation was clearly hip-hop, but its excursions into indie-pop and EDM made it clear that its members aspired to reach a wider audience. At the risk of sounding like a cliche, this exploratory blip in D∆WN's career allowed her to wake up.
Which brings us to the present. After years spent toiling away at her image and sound, D∆WN has made artistic leaps and bounds that many didn't see coming. (In the past year alone, she released the propulsive, synth-heavy Blackheart and the smooth and sensual Infrared EP, produced by Fade To Mind's Kingdom.) The visuals for "Wake Up" — the lead single for a project set to drop later this year — are why we're gathered here today.
With innovative beatsmith Machinedrum on the boards, D∆WN's AutoTuned vocals stretch up, up and away, and back down to Earth — or whatever planet she inhabits: "Don't wake me up, I've been dreaming of you / And this love ricochets from me to you." Directed by Sasha Samsonova and D∆WN herself, the first minute builds intensely as she and her army of beautifully diverse women dance powerfully in a post-apocalyptic land, propelled by the track's ascending energy.
The video is a riveting moment in the performer's timeline that speaks directly to her desire to be seen as a boundless artist frolicking between creative universes. "With this era, I want to highlight the marriage of fashion, tech and sound," D∆WN says. "'Wake Up' is a fashion film inspired by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and the Faun and the Phoenix narrate this whimsical dream that you don't want to wake up from."
It only makes sense for D∆WN to be portrayed as a phoenix. As an artist, she's been reborn again and again. She's a survivor, and — a decade later — still proving that nothing can get in the way of her evolution.