ALBUM REVIEW: Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe

Cupid Deluxe artwork
Cupid Deluxe artwork

Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 11.36.33 AM

ARTIST Blood Orange

ALBUM Cupid Deluxe

LABEL Domino

RELEASE DATE 12 November 2013

9.8 | 10

I get the feeling Dev Hynes doesn’t like to be alone. 2011’s Coastal Grooves, his debut LP as Blood Orange, ended with the singer/songwriter/producer pleading his lover to “come into my bedroom.” Then on the lyric video for the outstanding prerelease single “You’re Not Good Enough,” an inner monologue of Hynes’ thoughts take the place of the actual lyrics, and one telling line has him thinking, “you should just come over anyway. I like the company.” And the company he keeps is quite the creative bunch. Throughout his phenomenal new album Cupid Deluxe, Hynes and collaborators including Chairlift’s Carolina Polachek, Friends’ Samantha Urbani, Despot, and Dirty Projectors’ Dave Longstreth create a remarkably cohesive record that touches on the various intricacies of human intimacy in different yet equally compelling ways.

Whereas Coastal Grooves could be criticized for its largely similar sound throughout (albeit a phenomenal sound at that), each song on Deluxe is clearly defined by its own unique characteristics. “Chamakay” opens the album with a tropical groove, and its slowly unfolding chorus makes each moment seem monumental. The video for “Chamakay” was shot by Adam Baindridge, who also records music as Kindness, and features Hynes traveling to Georgetown, Guyana to see where his mother was born and meet his grandfather for the first time. It’s a beautiful portrait that concerns itself with examining the unique bond between family members, indiscriminate of age, location, philosophies, and anything else that constantly divides us. “You’re Not Good Enough” finds Hynes channeling his inner Michael Jackson, circa Off The Wall, to incredibly rewarding results. There’s a tenacity in his vocal delivery on “Good Enough” that is a welcome departure from the warmth of his delivery elsewhere. “I never was in love / You know that you were never good enough,” he venomously sings, with Friends’ Samantha Urbani doling out background vocals to help provide the track some added depth.

The entire album is bolstered by it’s all-star lineup of collaborators, all of whom fit in seamlessly in the context of the larger picture. The stunning “No Right Thing,” one of several showstoppers on display, features Longstreth and production from Clams Casino, and as good as that pairing sounds on paper, the results are even more astounding in practice. Hynes and Longstreth have a fantastic working relationship, with each feeding off the other’s energy, and Clams Casino’s production is a deviation from his blunted productions for the likes of A$AP Rocky. Elsewhere, Despot and Skepta (“Clipped On,” “High Street” respectively) jump in to provide another viewpoint in Hynes’ worldview, all while backed by production that is unmistakable in its relation to its fellow album tracks.

But the most noteworthy contribution to Cupid Deluxe among it’s collaborators comes from Urbani, whose real-life courtship with Hynes adds a level of sincerity to the proceedings. Their chemistry is impossible to ignore, as their duets spark with an electricity seldom heard in 2013. On the stellar “On The Line,” Urbani interpolates a section of Solange’s fantastic 2012 track “Some Things Never Seem To Fucking Work.” Her backing vocals on “Chosen” will send shivers down the spine of anyone with a pulse, and it’s one of the more affecting moments on the entire album.

Hynes’ ability to take bits and pieces of his past triumphs and position themselves in new and exciting ways has resulted in the songwriter/producer releasing not only his best album yet, but one of the year’s best as well. Through repeated listens, the full depth and color of Cupid Deluxe shows itself. There’s a phenomenal attention to detail in these recordings, as each track moves with a purpose, never once resting on its laurels. After the year Hynes has just had, it would certainly be easy to do just that. But it’s a testament to his drive that, with all eyes on him, Dev Hynes’ vision has only gotten clearer. In less capable hands, Deluxe could have gone in any number of unfortunate directions. Hynes is able to tiptoe the line between genre pushing and classic nostalgia without ever wavering, definitively proving that the man behind the curtain is at his best out in front.

Cupid Deluxe’s closing track, “Time Will Tell,” is an all-encompassing look at Devonté Hynes’ work thus far, as Blood Orange and as producer/songwriter for Sky Ferreira, Solange, Mutya Keisha Siobhan, Friends, and more. Not only does the song repurpose the melody of the earlier Deluxe track “It Is What It Is,” but it also features Hynes pleadingly singing, “Come into my bed room,” a direct nod to the closing Coastal Groove track “Champagne Coast.” Instead of appearing cheap and lazy, the references to past work puts this material (and the work in Hynes’ rearview mirror) in a refreshing and exciting light that allows Deluxe to not only stand alone as a remarkably solid and cohesive LP but also as a piece to a greater whole.

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