Photo: Rob Daly

DAWN – “Cali Sun” (Singles Going Steady)

The work of DAWN (Dawn Richard) stays true to an aesthetic where it feels like chart-friendly soul-pop being remixed by an IDM producer.

Andrew Paschal: “Cali Sun” flirts heavily with being a full-on EDM banger but shows just enough restraint to avoid falling over the edge into face-melting tastelessness. Dawn Richard provides a summery vocal delivery, and when she sings “let’s stay young forever”, she at first appears to succumb to the insipid youth-worshipping that plagues much of our culture; however, when she follows it up with the line, “that way our mistakes will never count”, it combines with repeated mentions elsewhere of “regrets” to subtly critique the carefree, irresponsible illusion proffered by the light of the California sun. [7/10]

Tanner Smith: Last year, Dawn Richard released Blackheart, a brilliant record that synthesized big-tent dance music with sleek, sultry R&B from the last 1990s and early 2000s. With “Cali Sun”, she errs a little closer to worldly, populist dancehall, akin to Major Lazer. The song’s relative brevity (it runs in at only two minutes and some change) practically begs for it to be part of something bigger, whether that is her upcoming album or a DJ set. Still, DAWN’s spirit and elegant professionalism make her intriguing even at her slightest. [7/10]

John Garratt: “I can’t understand why we don’t see or hear more from her,” complains one YouTube commenter. My theory is that she sounds like any other pop diva armed with an expensive-sounding producer. All of the well-worn mixing board tricks in any given studio can’t elevate to the status of “dope” if it’s generic to begin with. Hey, at least it’s short. [3/10]

Scott Zuppardo: Bass heavy dope-ness with vocals attacking you from every angle on every word, during the verse the chorus, even the time between the notes, the video a vibrant splendor of visual delight. I’m addicted to the song and its production, impeccably arranged with the right amount of modern pop, hip-hop, and a luxuriously woven lyrical landscape. The animation is astounding, kudos to Dawn Richard for the vibes and Robert Coin for the scribes. [9/10]

Adriane Pontecorvo: This taste of tropical EDM intrigues, but never quite lives up to its potential. At just over two minutes, it sounds more like an excerpt from a full song or an intro to a longer track. Dawn Richard’s voice is a steady dream over refreshing, Machinedrum-produced beats, but as soon as the song starts to pick up speed, it jumps to a quick end, with no time given for a satisfactory release. Lush sounds that leave me wanting much more than this song offers. [6/10]

Max Totsky: The work of DAWN stays true to an aesthetic where it feels like chart-friendly soul-pop being remixed by an IDM producer, with the fumes coming from the former girl-group member’s songs being so distinctly different from the freakish (but often phenomenal) instrumentals that it’s usually hard to find a common heart. If you change IDM to EDM in that last description, you get “Cali Sun”, a track that takes DAWN’s typically outlandish musings and chops them into trap-friendly #BASSDROP. The production is fantastic, and I could see this going off quite well at some DJ festival somewhere, but it’s an interestingly conventional turn from DAWN, an artist who I always thought should push the boundaries even more than she does. [7/10]

Michael Pementel: What starts as powerful and a relaxing trance, turns into a confused vocal mix, with a slightly hectic drum machine. There’s this odd rush of drum claps that feel out of place throughout the track, and the scratchy vocals take away from the pleasant California atmosphere and promise that is underneath. Personally was super into the first 30 seconds and then lost interest. [2/10]

Chris Ingalls: I really like the combination of Dawn’s lovely, ethereal vocals and the militaristic dance beat. There are times when the drums overtake the track and unnecessarily busy it up, but there are also sparsely arranged moments that even things out. I wish the song were longer to give it the opportunity to stretch out into other areas. [6/10]

Paul Carr: The song begins as a lovelorn sunshine disco number perfect for late summer days. DAWN comes across like Metric’s Emily Haines at her most sunny and anthemic. The song continues to soar until it’s rudely interrupted by a stuttering, bassy breakdown. Before you know it, it’s turned into a club banger designed to tear the dancefloor to shreds. The effect is like walking into a nightclub still in your beach wear and getting sucked onto the dancefloor until the sun comes up. [8/10]

William Sutton: At not much more than two minutes long it feels like Dawn Richard ran out of ideas and cut her losses at that point. A generic sounding slice of modern electric pop, borrowing heavily from the likes of Major Lazer without the strength of hook, and a disappointing performance from the former Danity Kane and Diddy-Dirty Money singer this is largely forgettable track. The animated video produced by Dawn alongside Rob Coin is a slightly more interesting prospect and continues a trend for visuals supporting her work. [4/10]

SCORE: 5.90