Blood Orange - Negro Swan
Negro Swan is the new album from Dev Hynes under his Blood Orange moniker and a follow up to 2016's Freetown Sound. His last record really explored just what pop and progressive R&B can sound like. He was reinventing genres while continuing to play in those that already existed. It was an album that took it's time to connect with you. It was unconcerned about time but dedicated to creating blistering pop that actually mattered. Hynes' approach is a bit more nuanced on this record, creating music that is far more avante garde than even some of the features He employs. Puff Daddy appears on "Hope" but instead of rapping We get a spoken word outro and Puff singing somewhat during the hook. The parring with Tei Shi is also an odd one but nothing that we haven't seen from Hynes before. The main thing about this album is that it is painfully slow. With new success and new confidence Blood Orange allows his songs to unfold, includes intro and allows the music to just sort of ooze out. You never get the sense of beat being on the floor or of something kicking into a new gear and exploding. This record just sort of hangs around, picks it's spots, but in doing so not too much is allowed to stand out or push through. Hynes is looking to explore black depression on this album, yet in doing so He pulls you right down there with him, existing in this confined space almost deflated by looking back at the world.
One of the lead singles "Charcoal Baby" has a really wonderful sound and good message, but god it is so long and drawn out that by the time you get to the stellar ending there is only a few seconds left to revel in it. Most of this album feels like it is leading up to something rather than actually doing something. It feels like with complete freedom Hynes has dove into the more experimental which is fine, but Negro Swan is definitely missing that pop lean that made Hynes so special in the first place. HYnes is still able to get the absolute best out of his features and pull them into environments that they might never play in. A$AP Rocky delivers one of his best features this year on "Chewing Gum". Blood Orange seems to be at his best when He is working with someone else to bright forward a vision, it almost gives his work less of a freeform feel and more of a sense that something needs to happen. There are a few times on Negro Swan that it feels like Hynes is trying a little too hard to be Prince like on "Holy Will" as well as at a few other moments on the album. Yet you have to give it up for the honesty and realness of this album. Hynes is not afraid to put himself out there for a sound that He believes in even it is not the most commercially successful option. Still there is little that pops out or grabs your attention on this album it just sort of exists, and that is kinda lame.
6.9 out of 10