Devonté Hynes is a musical polymath.
Emerging in the 00’s as part of the noise pop group Test Icicles, after their collapse he skewed into his Lightspeed Champion alias. After two delicate albums he re-emerged as Blood Orange. Along the way he has worked with Solange, Sky Ferreira, FKA twigs and Kylie Minogue. Now he's returned for his fourth Blood Orange album, 'Negro Swan'.
Opening track ‘Orlando’ is what Prince would sound like if he came out in 2018. Future soul balladeering with a massive pop sheen. The album is littered with exquisite collaborations. A$AP Rocky shines on ‘Chewing Gum’. He delivers glorious verses, that add some extra texture, but never steals the spotlight from Hynes.
‘Charcoal Baby’ is the standout track on the album. Its wonky guitars sound like they are being played through a tape deck that is slowly dying. But it's the outro featuring skittering beats, jazzy motifs, urban swagger, soul vibes, a pop heartbeat, soul synths and haunting sax that encapsulates his ability to mix contrasting genres, that other hands would be a mess of clever ideas fighting for attention, but Hynes creates an elegant sadness that is balanced and ultimately flawless.
At the end of ‘Orlando’ there is a short skit/interview Normally on against skits as they never really add anything and detract from the music. On ‘Negro Swan’ they just work. During ‘Orlando’s outro the line “My eternal resolution will be to do too much”. This sums up this album - and Hynes himself - perfectly.
Words: Nick Roseblade
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