Favorite tracks: "90s Green Screen," "Bull Fighter," "Napster"
Of all our recent picks for Best New Artists, 23-year-old Jean Dawson might be the least predictable. Most artists start off by sounding like an amalgamation of their influences. You can listen to an act's early work and note, "Oh, this artist sounds like a mix of Post Malone and Khalid" or "This sounds like Billie Eilish, Lorde, and Amy Winehourse combined."
After one listen to Bad Sports, there's no way to simplify a description of Jean Dawson's music into a few references. When you can't compare a new artist to others, it's often a promising sign. On Bad Sports, Jean Dawson places gentle, melancholy melodies next to threatening surges of energy and weaves it all together with post-punk, new wave textures. He's a skillful songwriter, but he doesn't stick to the script. "Bull Fighter," for example, starts as a stripped back, dreary lullaby but also features a rap verse, a tempo change, and a guitar solo halfway through. On paper it doesn't make sense, but it sounds great.
Since Bad Sports, Jean Dawson has released a couple of loose singles hinting at even more experimentation to come. In the saturated state of music right now, it's becoming increasingly difficult to be surprised by something new. If you're looking for that rush of hearing something that is at once satisfying and challenging, check out Bad Sports.—Jacob Moore