WRITTEN BY: AnnaMarie Otor
On November 28, Dounia released her sophomore album, titled The Avant-Garden. The work was prefaced with two official singles: “Avant Garde,” in June, and “How I See It,” in August. A little over a year since her first album released last October, Intro To, she shows favorable growth in her sound while still keeping her clever style and distinctive wispy, dreamlike vocals.
The 20 year old artist is the epitome of harnessing online potential, coupled with an infectious aura of confidence and refreshingly sure sense of self. Her personality and realness garnered the attention of fans and large brands alike, helping her to gain a following over time. Born in Queens, and raised both there and Morocco, these upbringings shaped a lot of the qualities she attributes to herself: unconventional and opinionated. When she first started modelling, staying true to her personal ideologies continued to be important, such as challenging conventional beauty standards and promoting body positivity. Her end goal was always music — after mentally growing out of the world of modelling she made a more official transition into music, though she had been writing as an outlet for the majority of her life. These facets of her personal history and unapologetic nature shape a lot of her music in a way that bolsters the listener to embody the same ideals.
The album opens with “King of Queens (Intro),” in which Dounia shines over a 90s R&B reminiscent beat, self assurance evident from the beginning. Dominating her space, she sings “Move over, cause now it’s Dounia’s,” serving a small taste of what’s to follow. Leading into the album’s first single, “Avant Garde,” she launches into a suave anthem that exudes the class and fearlessness that defines her unique sound over a slightly trap influenced beat.
One of the most prominent and highly anticipated tracks on the album, “Rich Girl Mood,” features R&B singer-songwriter Kehlani. The give and take between the two artists detailing a lavishly powerful and emotionally assertive lifestyle present some of the best work either have done to date. The contrast between Dounia’s airy vocals and Kehlani’s soft, but commanding voice creates one of their most empowering anthems to date. The only other feature on the album is on “If U Wanna,” showcasing the talents of DJ duo Breakfast N Vegas. The club type beat ravaging the track is complemented by Dounia’s captivating vocals and subtle echo throughout the chorus.
Other standouts included ‘“50/50” and “Darija Freestyle.” The former is on the darker side production wise, in a more goosebump raising manner, matching the overall mood of the song as Dounia unleashes self reflections and realities of interpersonal connections. Lyrics in particular like “Sweet Dounia can’t suffice no more, you give too much and they just all absorb” and “They try to tame, they just free, free, free, try to contain, I just flee,” show a slightly more vulnerable side of the artist. The latter song, “Darija Freestyle,” was previously unofficially released, with a music video premiering in July. On the track she shows off her knowledge of 4 languages — Darija, Arabic, French, and English.
Overall Dounia presents an album that is rich lyrically, matching her usual quick wit and proves that she is constantly on an upward projection towards success. Despite the genre bending styles present throughout, it is all tied together in a way that makes it evident that she is a force to be reckoned with. The album is summed up best with a lyric from “Rich Girl Mood” perfectly: “If they sleeping on Douns, that’s a rich girl snooze.”
- King of Queens (Intro)
- Avant Garde
- Rich Girl Mood (ft. Kehlani)
- Hard Candy
- How I See It
- Darija Freestyle
- Ice Cubes
- If U Wanna (ft. Breakfast n Vegas)
- Queen of Kings (Outro)