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Blood Orange Releases Another Juicy Album

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Blood Orange Releases Another Juicy Album

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London-based artist and producer Dev Hynes, aka Blood Orange, released his fourth studio album in late August. The album, entitled “Negro Swan”, incorporates elements of R&B, psychedelic pop, funk and soul music.

The album was entirely self-produced, and contains features from rappers A$AP Rocky and Puff Daddy, as well as The Internet’s Steve Lacy. Upon release, outlets such as Metacritic, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and theneedledrop gave Hynes very positive reviews.

After coming off of an important performance at the annual Pitchfork Music Festival in July, Hynes is flying high.

Despite his recent fame, Hynes said in an interview with “Dazed” that he wanted this album to talk about his past issues with depression. He also wanted to portray the themes of hope and optimism.

Albums with self-reflective tones are always interesting to explore and analyze, and “Negro Swan” is no different. His choice to target people who are struggling with their life issues was a nice choice. Hynes wants these people to relate to his past and challenge themselves to hopefully make their lives better. All in all, Hynes’s bold social commentary is commendable.

Sonically, “Negro Swan” turns the clock back to the 1980s, with styles that resemble some of Prince’s strongest works. If this could be compared to a modern album, the first ones that come to mind are Frank Ocean’s “Blond” or Childish Gambino’s “Awaken, My Love!”

“Negro Swan” displayed Hynes’s complex musicality and lush creative ability to a “T”. Many songs on the tracklist are some of Blood Orange’s best, music-wise and production-wise.

Blood Orange fan senior Zach Goodwin said that he really enjoyed the album.

“It’s the most consistent project that he’s released so far,” he said.

The production remained intelligent and well-constructed throughout the record. Hynes was not afraid to work with unfamiliar instruments and experimented with a melange of different synthesizers, drum pads, and special effects.

One of the most favorable tracks was “Saint”, a jazzy song with hypnotic synths, drum pads, and smooth vocals.“Hope” had a soulful melody that helped drive an intricate beat. Additionally, the solid features from the oft-forgotten Puff Daddy and cozy vocals from Tei Shi made the track even better to listen to.  

“Chewing Gum” was another phenomenal track. Like “Hope”, the use of lo-fi and reverb effects on the instruments and vocals create a symphonic atmosphere. A$AP Rocky’s verse is very relaxing to listen to and paired well with Project Pat’s Childish Gambino-esque vocals.

Senior Drew Daugherty commented that his favorite songs were “Saint” and “Nappy Wonder.”

“They’re very chill tracks that I can put on a playlist and listen to whenever,” Daugherty said.

Though the album had many rave reviews, one of the biggest complaints about “Negro Swan” was the lack of quality songwriting on the tracks.

Hynes is not primarily a songwriter, so his writing came off as unrefined and did not contribute much to the album.

CFHS assistant band director Rob Sobnosky criticized the album for flowing too quickly from one track to the next and didn’t build on very many particular styles.

“Although each track brought something as a whole, I felt a big weakness of this album was that it didn’t have any deeply impactful single musical moments,” Sobnosky lamented.

His criticism is certainly valid. At some points on the album, it is a mystery to what the next track would hold. One song had a certain style, but then the next would not build off of the same elements.

While these flaws are present, the mellow, dreamy aesthetics that “Negro Swan” evoked outweighed the need for any songwriting. In fact, it could very well have been a successful instrumental project.

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