Devin Dawson has a lot of buzz around him and plenty of expectations on him. The singer-songwriter rose to fame after recording a Taylor Swift mash-up with Louisa Wendorff, which went viral on YouTube and amassed more than 35 million views. Now signed to Warner Bros, Dawson has been popping up on plenty of Ones to Watch lists for 2018 following the success of his debut single All On Me. Earlier this month Dawson released his debut album Dark Horse so does he live up to the hype?
It can be easy to get swept away by the buzz surrounding an artist, especially when it’s as loud as it is around Dawson. The problem often turns out to be that the material doesn’t match up to the expectation or the artist turns out to be a one-hit wonder. Based on the evidence of Dark Horse, that’s certainly not true in Dawson’s case. He brings his A-game throughout the entire record never letting any filler seep in to one of the best debut albums, of any genre, I’ve heard in a long time.
For Dark Horse Dawson has teamed up with producer Jay Joyce (Little Big Town, Keith Urban) and collaborated with songwriters such as Brett Beavers, Luke Laird, Seth Ennis, Chris DuBois and Jillian Jacqueline. The album opens with Dip, which is led by a 30 second interlude, and Dawson immediately grabs your attention. Indicative of the rest of the album, Dip is an amalgamation of a variety of different musical styles incorporating pop, Country and a bit of R&B into the mix. Lyrically the song toys with the idea of making a getaway from a party with a girl. It’s fun, it sounds fresh as hell and it’s catchy to boot.
Next up on the record is All On Me, the song that has been burning up the charts in the US. It’s a song that sees Dawson offering a shoulder to someone that needs to get the weight of the world off their shoulders. The lyrics are emotive and sweet, Dawson’s vocal straddles Country and R&B, and the music quickly seeps into your memory ensuring you’ll be humming the song long after its finished.
The way which Dawson has approached Dark Horse is refreshing. He hasn’t gone for obvious formulas to guarantee radio play, instead writing from the heart and allowing the music to speak for itself. There’s no attempt here to pander after what’s working in the charts and that’s one of the things I love about it. One moment you get a soothing track like Asking For a Friend, which navigates the shyness around approaching someone you’ve just met, and the next you’re breaking your heart over the soulful Secondhand Hurt.
Symptoms is one of the highlights on the record. It has a bluesy feel driven by a constant beat. Dawson’s vocal is superb on the track as he sings about falling fast for a woman and dealing with all the feelings that come with that. Another standout is I Can’t Trust Myself, which he co-wrote with Jillian Jacqueline who can be heard on background vocals. The track is dreamy moment about resisting temptation and knowing that you can’t be alone with someone without lust taking over.
The album closes with the excellent Dark Horse, a song that sees Dawson opening up about himself. It’s a bold moment where Dawson puts everything out there for people to make up their own mind about him. The chorus is perfection and the instrumentation really elevates the song ensuring you don’t get through it without getting goosebumps.
Devin Dawson is an artist with so much raw talent that it’s hard not to be in awe of what he’s accomplished with Dark Horse. For a debut record it’s confident, assured and surprisingly mature. Dawon clearly knows who he is as both an artist and a person and the results are absolutely stunning. It may only be January but Dawson’s Dark Horse is already an early contender for album of the year.
Track list: 1. Dip 2. All On Me 3. Asking For a Friend 4. Second to Last 5. Symptoms 6. I Don’t Care Who Sees 7. Secondhand Hurt 8. Placebo 9. War Paint 10. I Can’t Trust Myself 11. Prison 12. Dark Horse Record label: Warner Bros Release date: 19th January 2018