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Blood Orange: An Underrated Genius of the Music Industry

I’m sure you’ve heard the names ASAP Rocky, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Solange. But I have to ask, have you heard of Blood Orange? Dev Hynes, the man behind the stage name, has written and produced for some of the music industry’s top artists, including the previously listed musicians.

Picture of Dev Hynes via Instagram

Where it all began

Dev Hynes started in the dance-punk trio, called Test Icicles (an interesting name choice, to say the least). They released their first album, For Screening Purposes Only, in 2005. The album was praised for its uniqueness and grew in popularity in the indie music scene. Despite the success of their first album, the group never put out a second one. Only a year after their first album, 2006 marked the end of Test Icicles. In an interview with NME, Haynes said, “We were never, ever that keen on the music.”

Life after Test Icicles

After the trio split apart, Dev Hynes didn’t become Blood Orange overnight. In 2008, he became Lightspeed Champion, releasing his first album, Falling Off the Lavender Bridge, a melancholy album much different from his previous work. Hynes released a second album under Lightspeed Champion, titled Life is Sweet! Nice to Meet You. Both albums were well-received for their production and songwriting quality. Around this time, Hynes started picking up a lot more attention.

2011 was the year that marked Hynes’s switch from Lightspeed Champion to the infamous Blood Orange. In August of the same year, Coastal Grooves was his first album released under this new identity. Although the names were different, Hynes maintained his alternative music style. However, Blood Orange has more of a classic R&B/soul sound, with plenty of layered synthesizers to pull it all together.

The album that put him on the map

Hynes’s talent speaks for itself. However, with the help of social media, Blood Orange’s music found a new audience. TikTok has provided a platform for many musical artists. Because of the app’s high number of users and quick video-sharing style, musicians have found fame and recognition thanks to TikTok. Blood Orange’s song, “Charcoal Baby,” became a popular song to feature in TikTok video edits. One of the most liked edits (23.0k likes to be exact) is a Gone Girl x American Psycho mash-up that’s amassed 142.3k views. A Coraline edit featuring the song received 53.9k views and almost three thousand likes.

TikTok aside, Blood Orange currently has 3 million monthly listeners on Spotify (this number seems to keep growing). On YouTube, the music video for “Charcoal Baby” reached 2.9 million views. Although these numbers are impressive, I think they should be higher (I’m biased, I’ll admit). Blood Orange has a similar music style to Tame Impala, but they’re getting nearly 22 million monthly listeners on Spotify compared to the 3 million stated earlier. Heck, Blood Orange even remixed Tame Impala’s hit song, “Borderline.” Hynes’s artistry needs more hype.

Let’s take a step back to talk about Hynes’s hit song, “Charcoal Baby.” Yes, the base drop makes an epic video edit, but the song is so much more than that. The message behind the lyrics and music video is just as powerful as the instrumental behind it. The song begins with a beautifully spoken Janet Mock quote:

“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…”

Janet Mock

“Charcoal Baby” sends a message of unity. You get to choose the family you want and you’re never alone. At the start of the song, Hynes sings, “When you wake up/It’s not the first thing that you wanna know/Can you still count/All of the reasons that you’re not alone?” This song is beautiful. The combination of trumpet, flute, bass, and synths all work together perfectly. It makes you feel like the music is wrapping you in a hug, which is very comforting and relaxing. In a sense, you feel like you’re not alone, which is exactly what the song suggests. If you’re looking to add a vibey song to your playlist, I suggest this one:

Charcoal Baby by Blood Orange

Newsworthy moments

Hynes has performed with an award-winning composer, Philip Glass, at Carnegie Hall (yeah, you heard that right, Carnegie Hall). Interestingly, Hynes grew up classically trained, and he has mentioned that classical music is what he mainly listens to. In 2019, Hynes released his first classical album, Fields.

Blood Orange has an impressive resume when it comes to collaborations. Just within the past year, Blood Orange and Paul McCartney put out the song “Deep Down.” You know Paul McCartney, a member of one of the most successful boy bands of all time (cough, The Beatles).

Other notable mentions of artists Dev Hynes has worked with include Solange, Carly Rae Jepsen, Nelly Furtado, FKA Twigs, and ASAP Rocky (and that’s just to name a few).

Blood Orange’s song with Paul McCartney

Although Blood Orange has gained well-deserved recognition of its own, Dev Hynes has been a prominent songwriter and producer in the industry for years now. Most people don’t know about the geniuses behind their favorite songs. You can hear the passion and talent in every song Hynes touches. His uniqueness and broad skill set will make him a driving force in the industry for years to come. If you haven’t listened to his music yet, what are you waiting for?

Where I got my information:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Test_Icicles#:~:text=In%20February%202006%2C%20the%20band,that%20keen%20on%20the%20music.

Kinfolk article

Consequence article

https://genius.com/a/timeline-a-decade-of-dev-hynes-collaborations

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dev_Hynes

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/aug/16/blood-orange-dev-hynes-producer-songwriter

https://quotecatalog.com/quote/janet-mock-you-asked-me-wh-1NGEAy7

Isabel Crabtree

Illinois State '25

Hello everyone! I am a sophomore at Illinois State University. I love all things music, true crime, and self-improvement. I write to inspire and share what I've learned. Thank you for reading. Insta: izzy_the_wizzy