Published Aug 27, 2018Blood Orange, a.k.a. Dev Hynes, just dropped his new album Negro Swan last week, but in a recent interview with Exclaim!, Hynes revealed that a second record was made concurrently with Negro Swan — and now he's struggling with what he wants to do with it.
"I never go into a room and make an album," says Hynes. "It's me living my life and then within it an album gets made. There's usually a moment in the final two months where it shifts and I suddenly can see what's going to happen or how it's going to be put together and then I'll focus."
It was during this final stretch, in November 2017, that Hynes realized he was dealing with two separate records.
Of course, this isn't the first time that Hynes made a record and then wrestled with whether or not to release it. He shelved an album he made in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Another one was circulated among friends in 2015, but Hynes felt it didn't feel right for the Blood Orange sound and aesthetic. He describes Negro Swan as having more space than its counterpart.
"There's a bit more sunniness in it and it feels slightly more sculpted. The other one is more nihilistic and aggressive. There's usually a record that I haven't put out every couple of years."
If Hynes had things his way, audiences would go into each of his records blind, without context from press releases or singles: "As a fan of things, I like experiencing things that way," he says. "But I'm not allowed to do that."
Recognizing the mechanics of the music business, he released two tracks at the end of July — "Charcoal Baby" and "Jewelry" — while a press release described the record as "an exploration into my own and many types of black depression, an honest look at the corners of black existence, and the ongoing anxieties of queer/people of colour," much to his chagrin.
Hynes doesn't deny that those are some of the record's themes, "but I wouldn't say that it's an album about depression, because there were other things that were on my mind too." By issuing a quote like that, "it looks like it's some kind of proclamation. That's against why I do what I do."
Rather, the album is really about whatever any one listener wants it to be.
"I know what I was thinking when I was writing it and everything," he explains, "but I also went out of my way to write things that could be taken by any person."
He uses the line "No one wants to be the negro swan," from "Charcoal Baby" as an example. "Every way that anyone wants to interpret that line is correct. It's all applicable."
"I'm not necessarily the creator or the finalizer," he says of his songs — he's just the glue holding the whole thing together. "I've always believed that just because someone writes the song, they're not the one who finishes it or even necessarily the best person to interpret it."
Negro Swan is out now via Domino.