Hype Song of the Month // Blood Orange Augustine
In fact, we’re currently living in harder times than, say, five years ago. In June, 49 people died in what’s being called the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, after a gunman walked into a gay Orlando nightclub and opened fire. Shortly after Britain voted to leave the European Union, sparking chants of racism from liberals, Micah Xavier Johnson ambushed and fired upon a group of police officers in Dallas, Texas on July 7, killing five officers and injuring nine others. The shooting happened at the end of a peaceful Black Lives Matter-organized protest against police killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, which had occurred in the preceding days. A few days later, 85 people were killed and 307 injured when a cargo truck was deliberately driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France.
Midway through this vein of global tension, Dev Hynes releases his third Blood Orange album Freetown Sound, which “is for everyone told they’re not black enough, too black, too queer, not queer the right way … it’s a clapback”, as he proclaimed on Instagram. Augustine, Blood Orange’s first single from Freetwon Sound, delivers an opportunity to settle our fears without losing focus on difficult times. In the opening seconds of Augustine, Hynes sings, “My father was a young man/My mother off the boat/My eyes were fresh at 21/Bruised but still afloat.” While addressing a shared experience of transience, faith, and the complications of urban life, moments later, Hynes quotes a famous section from Confessions by Saint Augustine, the theologian and philosopher who spread Christianity in Africa to link the shattering shifts that have occurred in American life with regards to the vulnerability of black bodies. From here, it’s easy to establish an analogy for world-spanning racism, homophobia and radicalism.
Augustine is made from only four sounds (drum machine, guitar, piano and Dev Hynes’ terrific vocals), but its musical magnitude is tremendous. Its complexity is both intimate and global, spanning observations on life in New York and the West African religious leader Nontetha Nkwenkwe. Hynes even sings the last seconds of the song in Krio (the national language of Sierra Leone, where his father is from). Augustine is accompanied by a beautiful video, directed by Dev Hynes himself, showing him making music in an empty dance studio, dancing on rooftops and in parks, and eating fried chicken with The Strokes’ singer Julian Casablancas.