Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Blood Orange: Freetown Sound [Domino, 2016]
Don't let the spoken-word samples that signify Dev Hynes's intellectual ambitions distract you from the smartest stuff here--namely, the choruses that beckon you through them. Then home in on the extraordinary run of women singers who enliven and intensify his songs as past collaborators have not: Empress Of, Carly Rae Jepsen, Zuri Marley, Debbie Harry, Nelly Furtado, Kelsey Lu, BEA1991, Ava Raiin. And dig how casually he varies his falsetto with bass-baritone chant-raps and juices his keyboards with percussion. The ambitions themselves could be clearer--why should "Hands Up" be so much more explicit about police violence than "Squash Squash" is about lives lost to addiction? But credit Hynes with connecting his romantic instability to a personal insecurity that in turn connects to what the larger society makes of his blackness and queerness--and for having the consciousness to insist that his blackness is rooted in Africa, and not just because his father was born there. A-