Dev Hynes has multiple guises, but he’s probably best known under the moniker Blood Orange for his work with Solange Knowles on her ‘True’ EP (as well as the recent Flatline from MKS). Yet on ‘Cupid Deluxe’, his second album as Blood Orange, he’s worked with a number of guest vocalists including Caroline Polachek of Chairlift, Samantha Urbani from Friends and rapper Skepta. What’s missing, though, is a certain Knowles sister.
‘Cupid Deluxe’ is a true showcase of Hynes’ ability as a producer. His idiosyncratic production is polished to an impossible sheen and follows on from his previous work with breezy pop melodies, Balearic beats, funk basslines, noodling guitars and synth washes. The first half in particular contains some brilliant tracks, gliding in smoothly on lead single Chamakay’s hazy waves and Polachek’s fluttering vocal. It’s followed by You’re Not Good Enough, a mid-tempo groove of funk guitars and a strutting bass; the quietly up-tempo Uncle Ace and its sun-dappled textures; the light, falsetto vocals of Dave Longstreth from Dirty Projectors on No Right Thing; and the shimmering, percussive ballad It Is What It Is. The sound of ‘Cupid Deluxe’ frequently stuns.
Yet the sound mostly expands and consolidates his previous work – whilst the album often thrills with its outstanding production, it rarely surprises (except, perhaps, for the hip-hop tracks Clipped On and High Street). With no real star-power holding the album together, interest swiftly wanes in the second half suggesting this may have worked better as an EP.
The missing link? Solange Knowles. Sure, Hynes may have established his sound first, but it’s now become so deeply ingrained with Solange’s recent work that for most of ‘Cupid Deluxe’ we’re left waiting for her slinky vocals to arrive. It’s clear that their relationship is a musical symbiosis: Hynes provides the vision, Solange provides the spark.
Hynes’ production work is exemplary, something that ‘Cupid Deluxe’ only reinforces in abundance on every track. As an album in its own right it falls a little short, but as a précis to Solange’s next album (not to mention MKS), it’ll do very nicely.
* You're Not Good Enough
* It Is What It Is
Listen: 'Cupid Deluxe' is available now.