Dawn has had an unusual career trajectory. Once upon a time, he was E’Dawn of Pentagon and Triple H. After helping pen the 2018 super-hit “Shine”, his future seemed rosy. Then, Cube Entertainment unceremoniously dumped both Dawn and HyunA for the atrocious crime of dating. Cue Psy, who whisked the couple away to his newly formed company P Nation. It was there that Dawn was renamed and remade as a rookie soloist.
His debut effort, “Money”, showed exciting promise. However, it takes more than a single to properly establish an artist. That means a lot of weight rests on Dawn’s first EP, Dawndididawn. It doesn’t disappoint.
The album opens with an earworm whistle riff as if to announce that Dawn has arrived and is here to stay. If the musical commencement of title track “Dawndididawn” doesn’t send that message hard enough, its lyrics are happy to hammer the point home, with their constant riffs on Dawn’s name and lines like:
Can’t leave things unfinished
all-nighters ’til the morning
you can’t shake me, strong mentality
I may look weak but I’m psycho
The rest of “Dawndididawn” is equally catchy and confident, if occasionally repetitive. The song feels like it’s missing just one extra element to reach perfection. Then again, the simplicity of its production is part of the track’s charm. “Dawndididawn” has an air of effortless, even lazy coolness, which perfectly matches Dawn’s performance persona.
Labelmate Jessi stops in for a couple of verses near the track’s end. She’s as charmingly bombastic as ever, but “Dawndididawn” may have worked better as a one-man venture. On the other hand, her presence is a smart marketing choice given Dawn’s relatively unknown status, not to mention a forceful reminder of the growing strength of P Nation’s roster. Crush also features later in the album.
“Tantara” follows in the self-assured footsteps of “Dawndididawn”. The song proclaims Dawn’s commitment to being different. Musically, “Tantara” is another entry into this year’s growing collection of Western-inspired songs. Its pre-chorus is disappointingly uninventive, especially because the rest of the track is full of twangy brilliance. Dawn shows that he understands when less is more, as in the rhythmic chorus, and when a flourish is needed, like the charmingly kitschy brass intro and outro.
The other three songs on Dawndididawn are in a completely different emotional universe. That is not to say that the album lacks cohesion. Ferocity, honesty, and a healthy dose of eccentricity are found in every corner of the EP. You’re not going to hear HyunA referred to as “Bubble Pop Señorita” anywhere but here. However, there is a definite split between the defiant attitude of “Tantara” and “Dawndididawn” and the more introspective quality of the rest of Dawndididawn’s offerings.
Take “Butterfly”, a sonically rather mundane track. Fortunately, its whimsical lyrics cast a melancholic spell:
There’s a butterfly sitting on the flower garden
But why is there no one who likes to see it?
Every day ooh, day passes, no matter how long I wait, no one is looking for it
Ooh, waiting blankly, Staying on the flowers, I can’t live because I’m so upset
Where “Tantara” celebrates the glory of being different, “Butterfly” examines the consequences. To be special is great and all, except on the days that it leaves you misunderstood, frustrated, and utterly alone.
“Ordinary Night” is in many ways a less inspired version of “Butterfly”. The song may appeal with its ironically upbeat sound, but it focuses on a fairly boring story of lost love. Still, “Ordinary Night” digs into the topic of loneliness with surprising and affecting vulnerability.
Dawn has much greater success melding self-reflection with relationship woes in “Still”. Its soft melodies are contrasted by brutal lyrics. While Jessi’s cameo felt unnecessary in “Dawndididawn”, Crush’s is crucial here. His smoky and emotive voice matches and enhances the tortured resignation of “Still”. The song is a slam-dunk of tragically enthralling dysfunction.
Dawndididawn only gives Dawn five tracks to prove his relevance as an artist. It’s more than enough. He’s captivating and likely in for a boatload of comparisons to the premier sneering yet sensitive superstar of K-pop, G-Dragon.
What makes Dawn so interesting though is his originality. There is something truly unique about the way he is simultaneously unapologetic and contemplative, fierce and delicate, cool, and awkward, full of loathing and full of love. This is a man with something to say, and at P Nation, he seems to have been given the license to do just that: he has major production credits on every track of Dawndididawn.
Dawn is great in Dawndididawn, despite the EP’s flaws. One day soon, he’s going to be even better. So is Dawn, formerly E’Dawn, also apparently known as Dawndididawn, worth tuning into? Absolutely.