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If you download Blood Orange's Cupid Deluxe from iTunes, you won't have the credits for the other artists you'll hear when you listen. There are no features listed in the track names. Blood Orange is the sole artist listed.
Blood Orange is the lo-fi, Prince-adoring project of aesthetic émigré Dev Hynes. Listening to "Chamakay," the album opener and lead single, it's unclear whose voice you hear first. Over deep percussion and marimba, a high-pitched line of "mhms" skate through. The pretty androgyny of the song's opening is Cupid Deluxe in miniature.
Hynes, a UK native turned New Yorker, the artist who wrote Solange Knowles' "Losing You" and Sky Ferreira's "Everything Is Embarrassing," steps in and out of gender and sexuality like those things were comfortable clothes. "I see you waiting for a girl like me to come along," he sings on "Chamakay," joined by Caroline Polachek of the synthpop duo Chairlift.
Dave Longstreth, of Brooklyn vocal show-offs Dirty Projectors, sings on this album, as does Samantha Urbani, Hyne's partner. Queens rapper, and friend of Das Racist, Despot contributes a long verse. UK grime fans will recognize Skepta, who also chips in. He recalls watching Michael Jackson on the telly.
Liminal is a word to describe being in between places, stations, social situations, identities. (Hynes was the victim of homophobia as a teen. Writing for The Fader, Alex Frank describes how Hynes "tried having sex with men in a spirit of queer camaraderie, but found he didn't like it. 'I wanted to try,' he says.") Cupid Deluxe isn't a liminal experience, isn't about confusion or being caught in between. It's something more radical, something I'm not sure there's a word for. It's a word that would mean the ability to be one thing completely and then another. With Blood Orange, sometimes that looks and sounds like androgyny. Sometimes it's being a black man. A white woman. A grime MC. A rapper from Queens.
Liminality can be cause of anxiety and uncertainty; you aren't this or that, you're in the midst of process. You're maybe becoming one thing or another. This album is comfortable, confident, beautiful, itself—whatever that may be in a given moment. —Ross Scarano