Blood Orange's Dev Hynes (photo by Michael Lavine, PR)
Devonté (or Dev) Hynes, who records as Blood Orange, is a London-born, New York-based singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and author. His new album is a 17-song collection called Freetown Sound which comes almost three years after Hynes released Cupid Deluxe, his third album under the Blood Orange moniker. Hynes has been making music for well over a decade; he's previously recorded as part of the rave punk band Test Icicles and then for a spell, as Lightspeed Champion, releasing two albums in 2008 and 2010.
As Blood Orange, Hynes released his first album, Coastal Grooves, in 2011. He has always been a musical chameleon, a reputation formed over his many incarnations. Freetown Sound reinforces that reputation. Seamlessly blending soul, dance, jazz, R&B, and electronics, the album is a deeply personal statement, but one that’s instantly relatable to everyone. The album plays like a continuous thought process or dream sequence; its songs are woven together. He uses samples to reinforce ideas and bring together jams.
The songs deal with feminism, racial inequality, LGBTQ rights, love, and relationships. Freetown Sound gets its title from Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone and its largest city, where Hynes’ father was born. Hynes' parents (his mother is Guyanese) moved to London when they were young adults—much like their British son, who moved to New York when he was just 21.
Hynes did the lion’s share of the production and songwriting on Freetown Sound himself, but he does rely on the input of others. The song “Love Ya,” is based on a 1984 Eddy Grant song called “Come On Let Me Love You." Hynes recruits Bob Marley's granddaughter (and Ziggy Marley's daughter) Zuri Marley for additional vocals on the track, although Grant gets sole credit as songwriter.
Hynes plays most of the instruments on Freetown Sound too, although saxophonist Jason Acre, Kindness's Adam Bainbridge, and Chairlift drummer Patrick Wimberly also perform on various tracks. There's an abundant array of guest vocalists too, like Debbie Harry on the infectious dance track “E.V.P.,” Nelly Furtado on “Hadron Collider,” a song she co-wrote with Hynes, and Carly Rae Jepsen on “Better Than Me."
Freedom Sound is a thought-provoking study of one man’s passions and struggles in today’s world. It's an album that demands attention and rewards listeners with sensual melodies, passionate vocals, a dance rhythm (or two), and plenty of food for thought.