Blood Orange - Negro Swan

6/10

Favorite Track: "Charcoal Baby" Least Favorite Track: "Minetta Creek"

I’ve had to re-write this a few times now, because this record makes me feel so many different ways. At times I love Negro Swan, but at other times I really dislike it. The first half of this album is defiantly stronger than the second half is, and the contrast is so extreme that I feel like that’s where some of my confusion about how I feel about this record comes from. At first listen I wanted to critique this record for the vocals specifically, despite the fact that they are technically skillful and great but I just subjectively didn’t care for them, and to a degree I still stand by that statement. Some of vocal harmonies on tracks like Holy Will are absolutely amazing but once again, subjectively I’ve never been a fan of the high pitched, shrieking vocals that some RNB artists so skillfully perform. That being said, my original vocal complaint about this record had to do with the fact that in a concept album such as Negro Swan I feel like the lyrics have to be such a prevalent part of the record and I felt as if Blood Orange buried them under overlay after overlay of different sounds on this record but after a few more listens it’s clear that point is really nitpicking. In fact in some ways, the vocals on this record are some of the most clear and crisp in Blood Orange’s discography. I also love some of the funky and groovy instrumentals on this record. For example the bright and colorful sounding guitar riff on Charcoal baby. This track also features a really catchy hook “When you wake uppppp”. Another great instrumental choice off Negro Swan is the groovy baseline off Orlando. It sounds like a funky baseline off of a John Mayer track or one from Flea. Orlando is also the intro track to the record, and it ends with a commentary piece which addresses “doing too much” as a positive trait. The following track is one of my favorite off the record in Saint. This track features a very groovy open hi-hat drum beat as well as some cosmic synths and some very lyric centric vocals from Blood Orange. Nappy Wonder is another notable track. While rather stripped down instrumentally, it does feature a distorted guitar lead and some very sassy vocals. Blood Orange almost sounds like a young, (less skilled) Michael Jackson on this track. It’s also wrapped with a nice lyrical hook “feelings never have no ethics”. This project doesn’t feature too many low points in terms of songs but there are songs that have low points within them. This is to say that many of the songs on this record do drag on vocally. There’s many times on Negro Swan where a section will drag on for three minutes with only minor alterations. On the contrary however, some of the poppy instrumentals and smooth transitions keep this album afloat and enjoyable. Overall, I think all the praise Negro Swan got in 2018 was maybe a little much and it was definitely a tad overrated. However, that is not to say it isn’t a decent project.

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