Blood Orange released his third album in early July called Freetown Sound, making it his third full-length EP up to date. Dev Hynes, now under the moniker Blood Orange, has been in the music industry for over a decade now. The East London producer has dabbled in a plethora of genres, from his early beginnings in dance-punk band Test Icicles to the indie rock/pop sounds as Lightspeed Champion. For a long time, he has performed as more than just a singer and explored all realms of his artistry including being a songwriter and producer. He has worked with artists that some may be more familiar with, such as Carly Rae Jepsen, Florence and the Machine and FKA Twigs. Whilst he has been very broad in his approach to sound, his own music has been fairly focused on dreamy 80’s pop and funk sounds. Blood Orange is more instrumentally daring on this album than he as previously, which makes for a more exciting and fun project for the audience to listen to.
Firstly it is important to noteworthy to mention the collaborators in this project. Nelly Furtado and Carly Rae Jepson both make vocal appearances, as well as Zuri Marley. In addition, Blood Orange provides a platform for political influences to flourish with the feature of slampoet Ashlee Haze on the first track ‘By Ourselves’. “I will tell you that right now there are a million black girls just waiting to see someone who looks like them”. The perfect one line that packs a punch on why representation is so critical in our day and age. This, in turn, adds to his daring exploration with music, yet it is not something that is unheard of in recent music history.
‘Hands Up’ sounds like a Prince-inspired song. Blood Orange’s melody and harmonies in this are great, but it is difficult to decipher what he is lyrically speaking about. Whether it’s a love song or a song about police brutality, or both, still remains unresolved to me. If it is both, then the execution is amateurish at best. Also, the ending is abrupt. But You also sonically sounds like a potential love ballad, but the subject-matter is so relatable to most over-thinking humans. The melody is lovely in this and really is a reincarnation of the 80’s.
A lot of the tracks on the album are very reverb-heavy, which may come from the 80’s inspiration. however, it does become overbearing after a while and makes it difficult to distinguish between the guest vocals. Perhaps this is a goal of Blood Orange, but it’s highly unfavourable.
‘Desiree’ overuses reverb, but also lyrically is lack lustre. It seems subpar considering the subject matter and the sampling of Paris is Burning being used as a backdrop. The same can be said about ‘Love Ya’, which only has one very short-lived verse sung by Zuri Marley and is seemingly an infinite intro. The lyrics are borderline cringe-worthy. Listening to the project it became clear to me that the only real enjoyment I got from listening to the album was the instrumentals and the samples of interviews and spoken word samples used as backdrops to what he was lyrically trying to explore. Whilst there has been a progression from a producer aspect, as a whole, the album heavily relies on other work to hold the forte.
‘Juicy 1-4’ has a punchy baseline and percussion. Being one of the stronger tracks on the album, it is still lyrically ambiguous. This spoils it in terms of being a fan of the song. Nevertheless, an undeniably groovy song. ‘Best Of You’ features strong melodic vocals from Carley Rae Jepson. it is a very textured song and the melody executed in a quirky manner.
If you seek the vibes that are commonly present in 80’s funk and pop music, this project is consistent throughout. There has been a clear improvement from album to album for Dev Hynes in general and Blood Orange specifically. His production is a definite 8/10, whilst his songwriting rests on a mere 4/10. His instrumental influences are pronounced and well-crafted into form. But his songwriting overall is a let-down.By Kelly Kiesewetter