Isn't it a great feeling when everything you love about music starts to come together in one album? It's that feeling when artists and projects that have piqued your interest in the past seem to find each other and create. It's when rock, pop, hip-hop, indie, grime, soul, etc...are all happily married. Case in point: Blood Orange's 2nd full length LP, Cupid Deluxe. This album is like a play...Dev Hynes is the lead and the key players around him comprise the "company."
Devonte (Dev) Hynes - The Star
The London-born, New York-based producer, singer, songwriter, Renaissance man is best known for his work with artists like Solange, Sky Ferreira and The Chemical Brothers, but in my eyes, the real standout was his 2011 LP, Coastal Grooves. His high profile work with Solange raised some high expectations for Hynes and Cupid Deluxe delivers as a full-bodied artistic expression of relationships, the nostalgia of where we're from, personal themes and musical experimentation
He talks about the awkwardness of a busted relationship in "You're Not Good Enough" and we feel that moment, when he sees his ex on the other side of the bar, so vivdly. As if we were his opponent in a detached game of bar pool. The 80's soul-pop beat makes you wanna do a weird pop-lock to the whimsical bass line and keyboard stringing along the jam. In fact, Hynes himself busts out with an eccentrically amazing interpretive dance on the video for the album's closing track, "Time Will Tell." And at that moment, we understand what an eccentric he is and how comfortable he is in his own skin and soul. Fuck...i wanna pop and wiggle when i hear these tunes, but I gotta admit, it puts a huge smile on my face to see him rocking out to his own jam. But the part of this album that really does it for me, is how well Dev works with other artists, some well known and others not as much...yet
Dave Longstreth - The Balance
The Dirty Projectors frontman lends his vocals on "No Right Thing" over a hyper-active guitar and an island beat that sounds like it's right out of Peter Gabriel's catalog. Longstreth's classically trained voice is instantly recognizable and this is one helluva break-up song. It punctuates with the bridge to the final chorus, when the female character comes in to speak her mind in this whole mess. As Hynes and Longstreth pepper in their vocals as she belts her lament, it's a perfect example of how Hynes blends in the 3 voices to shape a uniform composition. That female character, is played by non other than......
Samantha Urbani - The Muse
I remember about a year ago when an indie band named Friends surfaced with two of the catchiest tracks of the summer. The video for "I'm His Girl" was pure sinful hipsterdom and i fucking loved it. This girl was so cute and the song was so poppy, but where had she gone? My re-introduction to Samantha Urbani comes on most of the tracks on this album. Urbani and Hynes are an item, both romantically and creatively. Throughout the record, she's the yin to his yang and kills it. Dropping sultry references like:
And harmonizing with Hynes:
You'll come to love her presence and characters throughout the record. She's the integral co-star and shows off Hynes' ability to balance vocals and write music for other talent. Much like..
Caroline Polachek - The Force
Polachek is the lead singer of Chairlift and stars on the album's opening track and first single, "Chamakay." She pairs with Hynes and provides a powerful voice for the first of many male/female dichotomies on the record. It's a nod to Hynes' versatility in that he didn't just write an album for Urbani to be the sole female vocal and 'Chamakay' stays with you long after the music has stopped. Speaking of versatility, Hynes even employs two MC's...
Despot - The Flow
I heard Despot for the first time when he opened for Killer Mike and El-P on the Run The Jewels tour earlier this year. Dude was making me laugh so hard introducing his songs with shit like "Yeah, this song's about selling drugs to Jesus".. We didn't know whether do take him seriously or what, but on "Clipped On" dude drops some SERIOUS knowledge. He's seemingly the voice inside of the head of Hynes' character on the album:
And i don't know
If this the edge of my seat or it's the end of my rope
So whats it gonna be?
Either love or leave it alone
Asking me how i sleep at night
When you know that i don't
Trying to keep from dreaming about seein you on your own
Being who you being and leavin me here at home
For real?! Damn dog...i'm sold
Skepta - The Grime
Another dude that's surely gonna have a bigger pin on the map after this performance. Skepta speaks to where Hynes is from, the London borough of Ilford. Talkin' about how he was "on the Mega Drive more time"...And you definitely got me when you're talking about old school video game consoles. Cause it tells you that this record is about personal experiences and where you come from just as much as it's about the confusion of love
By the end of it all, Hynes and company have taken you on a journey. A tour through concepts and ideas and i've only touched on some of the themes. I didn't even get into how Hynes explores the evolution of his own sexuality through the eyes of the New York LGBT community. There's sooo much here on this record and it bears spending time with. When he punctuates his flow, Skepta asks:
If you're feeling me put your Pinot Grigio high
I gotchu dog. Raising this glass to our #18 Album of the Year, Blood Orange's Cupid Deluxe
Check out our running spotify playlist of the albums of the year here!
#17 drops tomorrow!
Edit song description to add:
- Historical context: what album the song's on, how popular it was
- An explanation of the song's overall story (example: "In this song, Kurt breaks down a day at his grandparents' house")
- The song's instrumentation and sound