Album Review- “Negro Swan” by Blood Orange

Over the summer of 2018, Devonte Hynes, the English born, leading composer, cellist, pianist, and artist behind the musical group Blood Orange, released two tracks from their highly anticipated album entitled “Negro Swan.”

The idea behind this album was meant to be a 16 track exploration into the 21st century trouble of “my own and many types of black depression, an honest look at black existence, the anxieties of queer/people of color, and what we do to get through it all. The underlying motifs include “hope, and the lights we can try to turn on within ourselves with a hopefully positive outcome of helping others out of their darkness”, said Hynes in a press release.

“Negro Swan” is the fourth album under Hynes’ New York based project Blood Orange, following 2016’s release of Freetown Sound- a beautifully poetic pop and R&B album. On Aug. 24, 2018, it was released on Domino Recording Company for all music platforms- written and produced by Hynes, it demonstrates his evolving maturity as an artist, beginning with the opening track “Orlando.”

“Orlando” displays the first major change in Hynes’s sound by creating an immediately captivating drum rhythm and an accompanying keyboard, with underlying tones of funk influence. Hynes’ high toned vocals are heightened by a choral of backing singers that vocally illustrate Hynes’ moving, personal trauma as a “sixteen-year-old-boy…to feel so numb that it’s deafening, walls’ll give in. After school, sucker punched down, Down and Out… But, god, it won’t make a difference if you don’t get up.” The album evokes of a feeling of community and personal conflict.

Throughout the album there are personal words from Janet Mock, that discuss personal outlooks on society and the impact it can have on an individual. “Negro Swan” also features collaborators such as Valerie Teicher, Sean Combs, ASAP Rocky, and Project Pat, who all have influenced the soul-soothing, funk inspired pop album.

Hynes’ backing band is currently in North America playing in major cities and festivals until October, where they begin touring across Europe. In a recent Instagram post, Hynes’ said “Negro Swan” gained over six million plays on Spotify alone- more than enough motivation to give this album a try as it is multilayered and works as an insightful and thought provoking ode to struggling individuals.

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