Aggression and anger turned into beauty
Devonté Hynes produces, sings, writes his own music, dances and directs. The powerhouse couldn’t even begin to describe his work ethic in the music world. The 32-year-old English artist has taken his personal experience of being a minority in the U.S. and has created a heartfelt tribute to his trials and tribulations in his fourth studio album under the name Blood Orange titled Negro Swan. Fans of Blood Orange have anxiously awaited his return since his 2016 album Freetown Sound which was nominated by The Independent Music Companies Association for Album of the Year 2016.
The 16-track album starts with a young Hynes reminiscing on troubled times in his youth. Issues with bullies and adolescence are explored. The listener is then led into an interlude with activist Janet Mock. “Dagenham Dream” and “Nappy Wonder” featuring Kelsey Lu also dive into yesteryear. “Hope” featuring Puff Daddy and Tei Shi is a lucid, steady building track that combines Hynes’ comforting vocals and mixed beats. “Charcoal Baby” takes the title of the album and gives it a whole new meaning with lyrics like, “No one wants to be the odd one out at times / No one wants to be the negro swan / Can you break sometimes?” Toward the end of the album, tracks like “Out of Your League” offer a mix between classic R&B beats and 60’s layered vocals. “Smoke,” the albums closing track, is a soft and subtle guitar melody of guidance. An album based on hostile memories and pessimism towards certain everyday things ends on a note of simplicity and bliss.
Hynes has collaborated with artists from all across the musical spectrum and continues to surprise his fans. His explanation of racism and black depression in Negro Swan really opens the eyes of the listener to just how important it is to be nice to the people around you. His finished yet somewhat unfinished sound makes each song unique in a way that makes you want to listen to a specific song a few times over to make sure you catch every little aspect. Hynes proves that with each album he creates, he continues to grow into an artist that will titillate listeners for years to come.