Zachary Cole Smith has overcome a multitude of problems to make this intensely powerful album
Blood Orange - 'Cupid Deluxe'
The collaborations on Dev Hynes’ second solo album are a success, but left to his own devices, things get icky
In theory, it’s a winning mix. Single ‘Chamakay’, featuring Polachek, sets the tone with its dainty steelpan, entangled boy/girl breathiness and lush synths, laced with melancholy. ‘You’re Not Good Enough’ is what Fleetwood Mac and Prince would have come up with were they really sad, locked in Sound City and prodded with sticks until they recorded a song together. ‘It Is What It Is’ is another highlight, a duet with Hynes’ girlfriend Urbani, whose sweet falsetto adds Mariah Carey sass. And later there’s hip-hop: ‘Clipped On’ bounces with effervescent ’90s breaks (via some hamfisted scratching), while grime star Skepta swings into ‘High Street’ to bring some attitude to Hynes’s gauzy piano.
If ‘Coastal Grooves’ was an ode to New York nightlife, ‘Cupid Deluxe’ wants to go inside and between the sheets. Yet Hynes has a hard time seducing us on his own. “Come into my bedroom”, he gasps on ‘Time Will Tell’, as if he’s having a very delicate wank. Without other singers to carry the songs, it has all the caramel-smooth sex of a melted Magnum. Elsewhere, when Hynes is left to his own devices, it gets ickier. There is a spoken-word bit. There is dodgy sax everywhere. And there are choirs,
as if this is a Michael Jackson record. In short, a lot of pretentious flourishes mess with a lot of quite good songs. Devonté Hynes could be this generation’s Babyface, and ‘Cupid Deluxe’ is a shop window for the future sound of pop. But perhaps he should quit trying to be a Prince-like polymath and concentrate on being a nimble-fingered production wizard instead.
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