To say that the music of Blood Orange has become something of an obsession of mine over the past year would be insufficiently enthusiastic. Devonté Hynes may not be a household name — yet — but if you read the tea leaves it’s hard NOT to imagine his next offering giving him the sort of break-out that Frank Ocean is currently enjoying. He put out some great music in the band Test Icicles and has written and produced for pop artists like Solange Knowles (you know her as Beyonce’s kid sister) and Florence Welch (you know her as Florence and the Machine). He’s also worked with electronic focused artists like Basement Jaxx and Chemical Brothers, amongst others. More importantly, in 2011 he also released a fantastic album called Coastal Grooves that deserves way more attention than it has so far received, (plus a couple of songs this year in a mini-EP / single format, Dinner btw Bad Girls.
Hynes is clearly just-barely-under-the-radar-for-now as well as a fantastically interesting person. He cites Philip Glass as an influence, tweets sweet nothings with Alexa Chung and hangs out with Katy Perry. He receives complements from artists as far apart on the spectrum as Maxwell and Courtney Love. He performs solo on the piano on network television in New Zealand and live in New York with Richard Wagner amidst whisps of red smoke. He was born in Texas, grew up in England, and lives in Brooklyn. And, over the past few years, he has embraced his synesthesia and used it as a basis for his compositions. Perhaps it’s not surprising that this approach has resulted in the creation of uniquely cohesive darkly downtempo and tension-filled songs that fully realize their own individual aesthetic even while remaining within a larger, recognizable context.
Blood Orange’s songs drop hints of Chinese pop (something we’ve seen more blatantly this year from artists like Grimes) alongside vocals that would stir jealousy in Prince’s loins. 1950s pop is mixed with danceable, 1980s beats, a careening-down-the-road-late-at-night bassline and an ominous sense of desperation in his most recent single, “I’m Sorry We Lied.” Prediction: you probably won’t forget this video anytime soon.