Blood Orange- ‘Sandra’s Smile’

Dev Hynes’ “Sandra’s Smile” is an ode to Sandra Bland, and for all the victims of America’s brutal systems of authority. It’s especially a song for those like Sybrina Fulton, Samaria Rice, Lesley McSpadden, and Geneva Reed-Veal, mothers forced to bury their children after police intervention shattered their lives. But while Hynes doesn’t gloss over the tragedy of Bland’s fate (“Who taught you to breathe, then took away your speech/ Made you feel so loved, then shook your hand with gloves?”), “Sandra’s Smile” is a marked change of pace from “Do You See My Skin Through the Flames?”, the piercing Blood Orange protest song Hynes released this past summer. Instead of opting for that song’s sobering sound collage approach, “Sandra’s Smile” is a glittering R&B elegy, driven by Hynes’ lithe programmed beats, saxophone solos, and a troupe of background singers. At one point, he references Fulton’s words specifically: “I mean, why should she forgive?/ Do we lose you if we don’t?” In “Sandra’s Smile”, black grief at the hands of America is channeled into a source of strength, all of that gnawing pain and frustration metamorphosed into something victorious for tomorrow.

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