Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Blood Orange: Cupid Deluxe (2013)



This is where chillwave was probably always headed -- basically a completely earnest imitation of adult contemporary pop circa 1993, New Jack Swing and Naughty by Nature-era hip hop -- but at least Dev Hynes comes at these smoothed-out genres with some level of enthusiasm and imagination, unlike a lot of his peers. With a "wildly diverse" cast of "guest stars" (Clams Casino, someone from Chairlift, someone from Dirty Projectors, uhhhh what more could you, like, want?), Hynes sets out to replicate a neon dark night of the soul and does so with surprising urgency.

Some of this is not an ironic nod to schmaltz but just schmaltz (often arrhythmic schmaltz -- you did this to us, Pitchfork), like pretty much the entire second half except the actually inspired retro hip hop creation "Clipped On," but some of it has a certain admirable grace and showmanship about. The first few cuts could be Sade outtakes. Laid against Rhye or Kelela, other artists who dove into this well in 2013, this all seems a little half-baked.

Hynes is a far better producer than songwriter, and as fun and impressively weird as as this nostalgia trip is, it's marked more than anything by its half-baked, haphazard nature -- but it actually deserves points for one-upping its own obvious easy-on-the-ear persuasions; it defies your attempts to make it define your mood for the evening, especially if you're as allergic to Diane Warrenesque pop, especially as weakly sung as the last few songs here, as we are. Bravo for amateurishness.

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