Even if you’ve never heard of singer/producer Dev Hynes — the man behind Blood Orange — you’ve probably heard some of his work. Hynes caught a break last year when he co-wrote and produced Sky Ferreira’s “Everything Is Embarrassing,” along with a new EP by Solange Knowles, which included the hit “Losing You.”
Those two songs were notable for their catchy hooks, smooth but danceable ’80s sound and heartbroken lyrics that betrayed the infectious melodies. On Hynes’ second studio album, Cupid Deluxe, he shines with a collection of affecting pop that consistently delivers on the promise of his songwriting work.
As a producer, Hynes developed a distinct sound, a hybrid between R&B and lounge that lives in a melancholy shadow. He fully develops that sound here and pulls it off either by singing himself or employing a vast array of talented guests. Caroline Polachek of Chairlift steals the show on opener “Chamakay,” a tortured duet that works wonders from its light refrain. Dave Longstreth of the Dirty Projectors stops by on the Clams Casino-produced “No Right Thing,” and his unusually soulful performance reveals amazing
potential for his band.
Another star here is Samantha Urbani, the singer of indie group Friends, who provides vocals to many tracks, including the wonderful “You’re Not Good Enough.” The perfect kiss-off from a scorned lover, the highlight track features Urbani and Hynes getting revenge by repeating, “I never was in love. You know that you were never good enough,” over and over again.
Most of these songs are filled with pain and anguish, which create a solid dichotomy with the tropical undertones. Hynes is a magician at crafting hooks, from the call and response of “On The Line,” which has a nice callback to a song he made with Knowles last year, to the soaring closer “Time Will Tell” that effectively ties the whole album together. He nails it on “Uncle Ace,” titled for the endearing nickname homeless New York City teens have given the subway line where they seek shelter, with a tune so emotionally affecting that it remains powerful whether the backstory is known or not.
This year has seen many artists, including HAIM and Sky Ferreira, try to nail the sound of ’80s pop, but none have perfected the formula quite the way Hynes does on his new album. After making waves behind the scenes, Blood Orange fully shines in the spotlight on Cupid Deluxe.