Name: Jean Dawson
Hometown: Tijuana, MX / Spring Valley, CA
Current Location: Los Angeles, CA
Latest Project: Pixel Bath
Confining Jean Dawson’s ideas to a single medium or genre would be a disservice to his imagination. He moves fluidly from hip-hop to shoegaze, music to film, and so much in between.
His sophomore album Pixel Bath is a symphony of glitchy vocals and distorted electric guitars. One moment his voice is hushed and the next thing you know, he’s shouting battlecries in Spanish. Over the course of its 38-minute runtime, Pixel Bath explores intimacy, existentialism, and justice. Most impressively, none of these sounds and themes feel out of place. Pixel Bath is as cohesive as it is experimental.
Dawson takes advantage of every tool at his disposal. Each new song, music video, merch drop, and social post constructs a world of his own imagination. These individual pieces culminated in the release of his self-directed documentary BURNOUT. Simply put, in the words of SZA: “He’s the future.”
A SONG YOU HAVE TO HEAR – “BRUISE BOY”
“BRUISE BOY” is an irresistible indie rock song peppered with hints of Jean Dawson’s expansive palette. He begins with a slowed version of the hook, and for a brief moment you can appreciate the emotional potency of the songwriting before being catapulted into a full-speed chorus. The song is filled with the glitchy, distorted flourishes that are a signature of Dawson’s sound. Some lyrics are emphasized with a fuzzy overdrive, while others are chopped and stuttered to fill pockets. His cadence can turn on a dime—he employs a hip-hop flow for one verse and settles into a laid back melody for the next. From front to back, “BRUISE BOY” is a dynamic, gripping song and a perfect entry point for Dawson’s discography.
The “BRUISE BOY” music video is an overture of Jean Dawson’s visual identity—it’s all there, from the somersaulting camera to the high-visibility flashes, and the scenes are stitched together with mind-bending visual effects. While other artists may rely on post-production to make their music videos interesting, these simply elevate Dawson’s charismatic performance. One shot pictures Dawson running alongside a pack of dogs in the middle of the night. Seconds later, he’s shadowboxing the camera through a thick layer of distortion. “BRUISE BOY” is a montage of stunning visuals that captures the fearlessness and versatility of Dawson’s work.
A VIDEO YOU HAVE TO WATCH – “BURNOUT”
Last week, Jean Dawson released a self-directed documentary called “BURNOUT.” Over the course of its seven-minute runtime, you can experience life through the eyes and ears of Jean Dawson. As a self-identified outsider, Dawson presents a stream-of-consciousness narrative about childhood, happiness, and caring deeply while also learning not to give a fuck. There are some moments where his voice is pitch-shifted and others where it’s blasted with distortion, drawing a parallel to the jolting production of Pixel Bath.
Some of the most impactful moments of “BURNOUT” reference his work across other mediums. Helmets and masks are a recurring visual motif—a fitting metaphor for an artist whose work explores the nuances of identity. “BURNOUT” blurs the lines between reality and imagination as Dawson wanders the streets in a bunny mask—a callback to the lyrics of his song “Policía” where he sings, “In the wind with a bunny mask on my face.” The imagery and often not-so-obvious references in “BURNOUT” increase the replayability of the video and add new layers to the ever-growing universe of Jean Dawson.
A FEW QUESTIONS FOR JEAN
If you could no longer make music, what would your next project be?
I would make films. I dropped out of film school because making music started to override everything else in my life. It was always my plan A, although I had to live through my plan B for my mom.
What is the common thread across your body of work?
I really dislike absolution so I try not get into the habit of being too comfortable with one form of thinking or work flow. I guess the most recurring part of me in making music is simply making music. The format changes as much as I change in any given circumstance. The language is always the same but the words and sounds I choose will most times have a life beyond my mouth.
What is one medium or genre that you’d like to explore next?
All of them, a little bit. I’ve gotten really hooked on gospel progressions and the tension of orchestral compositions. I won’t make gospel or concert hall classical music in a pure form but it definitely will play a part in my music.
What can we expect from you in 2021?