Mike A. Bryan, A&E Editor
Dev Hynes, better known as “Blood Orange,” has just released his fourth album, “Negro Swan.” Hynes previously released music under the name Lightspeed Champion and has worked with various other musicians and bands, including Philip Glass, Blondie, ASAP Rocky, The Chemical Brothers, Solange Knowles, and Florence and the Machine, among others.
Born in Great Britain, the singer, songwriter, composer, producer, dancer, and director has a unique style that is comparable to the progressive R&B sound of Frank Ocean, but with a more minimalist approach. Blood Orange has a progressive R&B sound, mixed with electronica, alt-pop, indie hip hop, downtempo rock, and spacey chillwave. The music is a unique combination that remains approachable through the wide variety of influences and styles.
“Negro Swan” has a little something for everyone, due to the variety of styles and influences present on the album. Fans of Frank Ocean, The Internet, and other progressive/alt R&B groups will love Blood Orange. This being the fourth album, Hynes has really solidified the Blood Orange sound that was made popular on his second album, “Cupid Deluxe.” That album was the one that put Blood Orange on the map with a supporting tour opening for Florence and the Machine. Unfortunately, the third album, “Freetown Sound,” while interesting and progressive, did not live up to the current or previous albums. The most notable thing about the third album is the album cover art, a photograph shot by the famous artist Mickalene Thomas, who is best known for her paintings using rhinestones, acrylic and enamel.
Many of the tracks on the album morph from one sound to another over the course of the song, seamlessly weaving all of Hynes’ various musical influences into one solid vibe. Trans activist Janet Mock appears on five of the 16 tracks, offering spoken-word verses and interludes between songs. Mock’s presence adds a depth and seriousness that has a grounding effect on the rest of the spaced-out album. According to Pitchfork, Hynes has said that “Negro Swan” is about black depression and his tumultuous childhood. Many of the songs deal with serious, somewhat depressing topics, and offer a glimpse into the mind of this complex artist. Hynes has a collaborative approach to his music that involves many other musicians, including ASAP Rocky and Diddy, on several tracks, bringing a welcomed variety to the music.
“Negro Swan” is an amazing, unique album that may not get a lot of mainstream radio play, but still has some single-worthy songs, such as album opener “Orlando.” If you are already a fan, you will love this album. If you haven’t yet heard of Blood Orange, this album is well worth checking out. It is definitely one of the better options in his discography. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen — you can find it on Spotify, YouTube, and Deezer.