The multi-talented Dev Hynes, more commonly known under his Blood Orange alias, recently dropped ‘Charcoal Baby’ – the first single from his upcoming record, Negro Swan. The track feels like a natural progression from Hynes’ last album, the critically acclaimed funk and R&B tinged Freetown Sound; however, this new song feels a lot smoother, catchier, and more immediate than its predecessor.
The track moves along with a gorgeous R&B flow, as Hynes fuses the song with excellent guitar work akin to his older records. The lyrics are densely poignant and, coupled with the track’s gorgeous, dreamy vocals, set the song apart from Blood Orange’s occasionally hollow discography. It’s an exceptionally groovy track, brooding with patience and unfurling into a rippling, warped, synth-laden haze, complete with a distant saxophone solo and frenetic drum beat as the song abruptly cuts out. It’s impressive how effortlessly Hynes is able to amalgamate genres, capturing the vibes of a slick pop song, groovy synth-funk, electronic music, and R&B; yet the final product has its own distinct voice. It is interesting, too, that a song predominantly focusing on racial insecurities, anxious lamentations, and what Hynes describes as “black depression”, can progress with such confidence, luring the listener into its captivating grasp.
‘Charcoal Baby’ is among the best tracks I’ve heard all year, and if it’s anything to go by, Negro Swan might just be Blood Orange’s best work yet. Watch this space.