Showing posts with label blood orange. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blood orange. Show all posts

Monday, July 4, 2016

video review: 'freetown sound' by blood orange

I'm genuinely curious to see how fans of this guy respond to this review. I'm expecting it to be inflammatory, but hey, who knows. In the mean time, the lead-up to the third year anniversary has begun, so get your votes in!

Beyond that, Billboard BREAKDOWN, Weval, and American Authors coming up soon, so stay tuned!

album review: 'freetown sound' by blood orange

Let's talk about sex.

Specifically, what one would consider 'sexy' within the context of music - and unsurprisingly, there's a range when it comes to this sort of thing - what one person might consider sexy or racy or even kinky another might tedious or overdone or even offensive. And of course such ideas tend to evolve over time, but if you want to flip to an instantly recognizable period where 'sexy' music was dominant, an easy place to start would be 80s pop and R&B. This was the era of Prince and Madonna, artists testing the limits of explicit content and good taste, but doing it with enough sensuality and tightness to make some killer music out of it before most the 90s hammered much of it into a brick wall - I might like grunge, adult alternative, punk, and gangsta rap, but most of it wouldn't fall into what the popular conscious considers 'sexy music'.

As such, if you're on the fringe of R&B in the modern era, it tends to be an easy instrumental shorthand to call back to the 80s, which was the first big impression I got from Blood Orange, the stage name for Devonte Hynes. Now he's been around the indie scene for well over a decade, starting with a few indie folk records under the ridiculous name Lightspeed Champion, but in 2011 he'd reinvent himself into a smooth crooner trying to blend liquid indie guitar tones with the tight beats you'd remember from Prince. And yet I've never quite been impressed with him - instrumentally he gets most of the way there, even if I do think the tones aren't quite as tight as they could be, but Hynes himself never impressed me as a singer. Hate to say it but he's nowhere close to matching his instrumentation when it comes to personality, less Prince than El DeBarge or maybe even Eddie Murphy. And that's a problem when the writing isn't particularly interesting either, especially on that first album. So for his follow-up he called in all his indie connections for an even more lavish slice of 80s revival music on Cupid Deluxe... and yet somehow it was even worse. Maybe it's my fault for relistening to Prince after he passed away a few months ago and then coming to this expecting something with tightness or greater punch in the melodies to build to a real hook, or a vocal performance that can make any impact at all, or guest performances that remotely fit with this style of music, but this record fell incredibly flat for me. And yeah, I can appreciate the exploration of queer themes, but they sure as hell deserved better presentation than this - I might have issues when The Weeknd pulls from this era, but he at least can get the groove and atmosphere of this material a lot better.

But it didn't look like Blood Orange was done yet, so out of nowhere he dropped a surprise album called Freetown Sound, which in following the grand 80s tradition of R&B goes straight into politics. And immediately I had justifiable concerns - I can point to a string of bad political albums and songs out of the mid-to-late 80s and a lot fewer success stories - and also because of his guest stars to help define his black queer vision, he pulls on icons of that community like Carly Rae Jepsen, lead singer of Blonde Debbie Harry, and Nelly Furtado. Okay, yeah, that's not fair - he's worked with Carly Rae Jepsen before and he also got Zuri Marley, spoken word artist Ta-Nehisi Coates, slam poet Ashlee Hayes - but as someone who hasn't really liked the last two Blood Orange records or their attempts at sensuality, I didn't have high expectations here. But that means it can only get better, so what did we get with Freetown Sound?