Dev Hynes knows how to make pain beautiful. Cupid Deluxe, his second record as Blood Orange, could break your heart.
Between throbbing disco beats and sultry sax lines, it’s all quiet pop goodness. Even the snap of a drum machine or punchy bass groove feels like a light touch. His airy vocals glide over all of it, conveying oceans of emotion through careful, technically precise delivery.
There’s a lot of hurt on this record. “Uncle Ace” is more poignant through its particularly funky rhythms, when you know that the title is a reference to “Uncle Ace’s house,” the name homeless LGBT kids in New York City gave to the ACE subway line, where many of them sleep. “Always Let U Down” features the refrain, “I can only disappoint you / ‘Cause I always let you down,” and rapper Despot’s verse on “Clipped On” is some biting straight-talk.
Speaking of guest spots — Hynes really got some wonderful performances. Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek is haunting on “Chamkay,” quietly backing Hynes. Dirty Projectors’ David Longstreth does blue-eyed soul right on “No Right Thing” and London rapper Skepta delivers his verses with a sobering, stone-cold tone.
But it’s Hynes’ production that shines and makes Cupid Deluxe so entrancing. He can throw back to disco and old R&B without making something that feels contrived. Instead, it feels heartbroken, contemplative and damn sexy. It feels human, and that’s not something pop can always achieve.