Listen - Dancing with Devonté Hynes aka Blood Orange

I don’t dance. Ever. It’s a problem sometimes. Most people enjoy dancing & they want you to enjoy it too. I’ve tried to dance & it just never felt right. It always seemed like I was pushing against a natural order. It’s tough to be unrestrained & joyful when you’re naturally restrained and, well, a little uptight. Most of the miserabilists that make up my playlists would be unlikely to get you out of bed in the morning let alone help you find a groove on the dance floor – though they will break your heart, which has its own allure - & I’ve always felt more attuned with a minor key than a major beat.
Perhaps that’s why Devonté Hynes, aka Blood Orange, sounds so wonderful & challenging to my ears. At turns ecstatic & sad, he acts as a kind of spiritual successor to Prince in the way he can make vulnerable sound sexy and his songs often find a direct line between corporeal & emotion, an amalgamation of heart & feet. There’s only a special few that draw from this duality.

Cupid Deluxe is the second album for Hynes under the Blood Orange banner. It's largely inspired by 'Paris Is Burning', the seminal documentary about New York’s queer community in the nineteen eighties. You can hear this inspiration weave its way through each track. Hynes sings for lonely, misunderstood individuals trying to find their way in a society that has largely rejected them. It should be heavy stuff but, like the documentary that preceded it, Cupid Deluxe revels in its defiance of what constitutes normal or acceptable & becomes a rousing celebration on the power of self-expression. He uses a pretty broad musical palate that is rife with eighties influences. That he makes it all sound so contemporary is testament to his brilliance.

Time Will Tell is the last song on the album. It’s structured around a plaintiff, cascading piano melody and a yearning vocal. That’s why it’s so striking when a few moments into the video Hynes steps back from his piano and starts dancing. At first it seems awkward but quickly becomes graceful & hypnotic. He doesn’t move with great precision but the music seems to compel him regardless. Hynes dances like someone who has discarded the shackles of self-doubt & has decided that pushing against the natural order is a good, even vital thing to do. Just like the beautiful misfits who populate Paris Is Burning he’s found a safe haven in the music to be himself without having to worry about physical expectation and the scorn of others. 

The whole video makes your heart swell but it also makes you want to move your body too. Its made me think that my idea of dance has been wrong all along. Perhaps its more about expression than exuberance & sometimes you can feel melancholy and rather than hindering your movement this propels it? Maybe the joy that’s felt from dancing isn’t just derived from a happy place but also from courage in the face of overwhelming sadness?

I’m not sure this means I’ll be first onto the dance floor at the next wedding I attend but if I say to someone, ‘I’m only waiting for the right kind of song’, I might just actually mean it. 

Karel B 

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