Recently, Blood Orange (Devonté Hynes) posted photo of a notebook with lyrics for a song called “Sandra’s Smile” on Facebook, saying he’d be releasing the track itself today — and, indeed, he did. The song was released on Spotify and Apple Music, and a music video — which you can watch below — was shared on YouTube.
While Hynes’ last album, Cupid Deluxe, thrived on the entrancing and immersive layering of sounds referencing early contemporary R&B, this new track isn’t so concerned with atmosphere and certainly isn’t concerned with blissful immersion, and rather centralizes Hynes’ voice, and the lyrics. (Though he hasn’t changed his sound up entirely: the requisite saxophonic flourishes are still at play). This makes sense, as — similar to his song about the Charleston massacre, “Do You See My Skin Through the Flames,” “Sandra’s Smile” is directly political — likewise addressing violence towards America’s black population, and Hynes’ goal seems to be to let the words speak.
Recently, Hynes spoke with Julian Casablancas about how he’d written a whole album about Trayvon Martin (which he never released, though he still has the songs). In the interview, he’d said “I didn’t want ME to be the aesthetic. I didn’t want myself to be in the way of what I was thinking and what I wanted to say.” And to an extent, a similar line of thinking seems to be the case in the straightforward arrangement and composition of “Sandra’s Smile.” Similarly, the music video is simple, featuring Hynes dancing and taking a sobering walk through the streets of New York.
In case you had any doubt about whether the song refers to the death of Sandra Bland in police custody following a minor traffic violation, Hynes tweeted the lyrics again, with photos:
Listen to the song/watch the video: