One of the best sets I saw at last weekend’s Pitchfork Music Festival was by Blood Orange. During the performance, he played a couple new songs — originally debuted last year — that we now know are part of his upcoming album Negro Swan. One of those songs, “Charcoal Baby,” arrives in finished studio form today along with a video by Crack Stevens.
A sinewy, guitar-driven R&B track that descends into an eerie synth funk chorus, “Charcoal Baby” is the song that yielded Blood Orange’s new album title via the lyric, “No one wants to be the negro swan.” Dev Hynes’ Domino labelmate Aaron Maine of Porches co-wrote the track. Its video begins with Janet Mock reciting the following:
You ask me what family is, and I think of family as community. I think of the spaces where you don’t have to shrink yourself, where you don’t have to pretend or to perform. You can fully show up and be vulnerable in silence, completely empty, and that’s completely enough. You show up as you are, without judgment, without ridicule, without fear or violence or policing or containment, and you can be there, and you’re filled all the way up. We get to choose our families. We are not limited by biology. We get to make ourselves, and we get to make our family.
From there we see two versions of Hynes in splitscreen, performing music at two different sorts of familial gatherings. Check it out below.
UPDATE: Hynes has shared a video for another new Negro Swan track called “Jewelry.”