In Dev Hynes, we trust.
If you’re not already a Blood Orange enthusiast or a pop nerd who’s found his name featured within your favorite pop diva’s album liner notes, chances are still pretty high that, even unknowingly, you’re still a big fan.
Dev isn’t as much of a prolific pop penner like Sia, but each one of the half dozen or so high profile collaborations he’s delivered to the world are all the greatest pop songs of the past decade — and no, that’s no hyperbole: Sky Ferreira‘s anthem of our generation (“Everything Is Embarrassing”), Solange‘s “Losing You” and Mutya Keisha Siobhan‘s criminally overlooked “Flatline” are all actual game-changers.
Even when his songs aren’t singles, they’re still obvious standouts, as with Tinashe‘s Aquarius gem, “Bet” — not to mention his work with Jessie Ware on Devotion (“Want Your Feeling”) and Carly Rae Jepsen on last year’s most holiest of pop tomes, E·MO·TION (“All That”). He’s even unexpectedly popped up alongside our beloved disco diva Kylie Minogue on the dreamy charity single, “Crystallize.” (For a brief time, he was almost involved on Britney Jean — a shattered dream too painful to consider.)
It’s not that the talented musician is just a consistently great producer, like a Max Martin, Greg Kurstin or a pre-problematic Dr. Luke — he maintains a separate career entirely with his own project, Blood Orange.
Last night, Dev dropped his latest album as Blood Orange, Freetown Sound, slightly ahead of schedule. (It was originally due out this Friday.)
It’s a meditative record that centers largely around issues of race and sexuality, dedicated to the under-appreciated (“it’s a clapback,” he explained) and full of thrilling collaborations (Debbie Harry!). I highly recommend digging into the whole thing at once when you can — but there are two songs in particular with two beloved Pop Queens that I just had to shout out immediately.
First is “Hadron Collider,” a song with Nelly Furtado.
The timing is perfect too, considering the Loose chanteuse — err, no, the “Promiscuous Girl” — wait, not better — just celebrated the decade anniversary of her 2006 pop opus, which gave us moments of genius like “Maneater” and “Say It Right” and rendered Timbaland inescapable on the radio for years.
The track was originally released via limited edition cassette tape during a benefit show at the Apollo Theater last December, but of course, it wound up hitting the web at some point in January.
As with so many of Dev’s collaborations, “Hadron Collider” sounds like nothing we’ve ever heard from Nelly before. Here, she assumes the role of a celestial sad angel floating alongside a whispery Dev.
“A thousand halos fill the sky / But we’re far from Heaven…”
It’s an exquisite production, as delicate and precise as a song named after a particle accelerator might suggest, and we can only hope this isn’t the last time these two link up in the studio. (For some reason, it also vaguely reminds me of one of my favorites — El Perro Del Mar‘s hazy cover of “At Your Best (You Are Love).”)
And then, there’s “Better Than Me,” a more-than-welcome reunion with Carly Rae Jepselegend. (Evidently, Dev’s got a thing for working with talented Canucks — and I’m certainly not complaining. Will Celine be next?)
Carly’s sparkly personality shines on her most UP! tracks like “Run Away With Me,” “I Really Like You” and “Call Me Maybe,” but it’s her more angst-riddled and introspective moments that prove she’s got much more to offer as a songwriter. She’s evidently comfortable diving into more mature territory when she’s working with Dev, who utilizes her breathy delivery to enhance a track about jealousy, as he explained in a great interview with Entertainment Weekly.
“That song is about a weird jealousy with being—kind of what I said [about feeling] not black enough or not queer enough. That song is about that dark moment when you look around. You can visualize the person. It’s the moment when you slip into that doubt and that weird jealousy. She sings on that song, but I don’t know if she knows that’s what it’s about.”
“I know she’s better than me…” Think the inner anxious monologue of Carly’s “Your Type.” Or Paris Hilton‘s “Jealousy.” Nobody wins when you’re full of envy. Don’t Carly and I know it all too well.
Freetown Sound was released on June 28. (iTunes)