While browsing last week’s new releases on Spotify, one album cover from an artist I had never heard of captured my attention. The image was of a young black boy in a grass field, wearing only blue jeans, a black rabbit-ear beanie, and a large white guitar strapped around him. His look could only be described as defiant. I instantly wondered what the music on this album sounded like.
Well, to try to encapsulate the songs of this artist, Jean Dawson, is a fruitless effort, as they fit no genre box. Elements of hip hop, pop punk, indie rock, trap and Britpop are just some of the sounds that have influenced the young Mexican-American artist, and it’s this wide berth of influences that make him such an exciting polymath.
If just testing out some of his top tracks on Spotify, you’ll get a taste for all the various directions Dawson ventures. The first single from his latest album Chaos Now*, “Three Heads*”, it a grungy banger given life with modern rap production. And it sounds nothing like the beautiful “Pirate Radio*”, which soars with Britpop melodies and Celtic fiddles. 2021 single “Menthol”, a collaboration with Mac DeMarco, is a head-banging hip-hop track with a slamming pop-punk chorus, and early streaming hit “Power Freaks” is a hyperactive pop jam with moments of moving balladry.
Dawson makes all of this sound effortless. He is an admitted student of music, having absorbed tons of various genres and styles, and has learned how to draw out the best of all of them and incorporate them into his own songcraft. Lyrically, Dawson seems to draw from his own feelings of being an outsider (see “I’m just a little tornado in the sunshine” on the lovely “Bad Fruit*”), as well as struggles with anxiety and depression.
Even when addressing these personal issues, Dawson can still blow up your speakers with a fist-pumping anthem like “Sick of It*”. You really never know what you’re going to get, and that’s pretty bad ass in this day and age. Discover Jean Dawson by hearing a few of his tracks in our Bad Ass Break-Outs Playlist on Spotify or Apple Music!