Why you should care
There’s a reason why Florence + the Machine, Solange Knowles and Gia Coppola — yes, of those Coppolas — clamored to work with him. You’ve been waiting for his angsty, new-wave-meets-’80s R&B sound longer than you realized.
Devonté Hynes likes to wear hats. Literally. He usually wears an NYC baseball cap over his shoulder-length braids. On the figurative front, the 27-year-old Manhattan resident wears multiple hats: producer, songwriter, musician and composer.
It’s his natural penchant for collaboration and songwriting that put Hynes on the musical map.
Ironicallyhe’s least known as the recording artist Blood Orange. Unfortunately for the attention-shy “Dev” Hynes, that may be about to change with the recent release of his excellent second album, Cupid Deluxe (Domino).
The London-born Hynes, who has childhood roots in Houston, got his start in the cheekily named punk band Test Icicles and later as a little-known solo act, Lightspeed Champion.
It’s his natural penchant for collaboration and songwriting that put Hynes on the musical map. He began writing for the Chemical Brothers and Florence + the Machine and soon blossomed into bigger roles. Recently Hynes helped birth some of the indie music scene’s breakout songs, including Solange Knowles’s “Losing You” and Skye Ferreira’s “Everything Is Embarrassing.”
Big names are taking notice. Mega-pop stars like Britney Spears have called (though apparently hanging up, declining to use his songs on her new album), and his sphere of influence is stretching into new realms. Third-generation filmmaker Gia Coppola asked him to compose his first score for her film Palo Alto based on James Franco’s book of short stories.
Hynes innately understands his own strengths as a maestro and assembled a dream team of indie guest appearances…
Still, it’s his work as Blood Orange that’s the most personal to Hynes. He wrote and produced all but one of the songs and plays a range of instruments on Cupid Deluxe . But that’s where the DIY effort ends.
Hynes innately understands his own strengths as a maestro and assembled a dream team of indie guest appearances: Dirty Projectors’ David Longstreth, Friends singer Samantha Urbani, Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek, rapper Despot, Adam Bainbridge of Kindness, Clams Casino and more.
Drawing inspiration from his current hometown, New York City, the album blends a diversity of sounds — including African pop, rap, grime and disco — with a distinctly ’80s new wave and R&B feel. The eclectic sound serves as backdrop to Hynes’s lyrics infused with heartache and wistfulness over broken relationships.
The album’s best songs pair Hynes’s androgynous singing style with female vocalists. The first single, “Chamakay,” features a breathy Hynes with Caroline Polachek’s heartbreaking vocals set to tropical grooves. The accompanying video (directed by Adam Bainbridge) captures a hat-wearing Hynes engaged in Michael Jackson-reminiscent dance moves in a variety of Guyanese locales, as well as intimate glimpses into his first-ever meeting with his 92-year-old maternal grandfather.
Other standouts pair Hynes with his reported girlfriend, Samantha Urbani, on “You’re Not Good Enough”; the ’80s R&B sounds of “It Is What It Is”; and “No Right Thing” with Urbani chiming in on the lovelorn duet between Hynes and David Longstreth.
It remains to be seen whether Hynes’s magic touch behind the scenes will catapult Blood Orange to the same level of success as his musical partners and protégés. Either way, expect to hear a lot more from Dev Hynes. Just don’t expect to know what hat he’ll be wearing at the time.