The artistic development of Devonté Hynes, the singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer known foremost as Blood Orange, has been marked by continuous diversification and exploration. After establishing himself in the dance-punk band Test Icicles and as Lightspeed Champion, Hynes changed course again as Blood Orange. Since debuting the project with Coastal Grooves (2011), Hynes has developed a progressive mixture of several styles including soul, funk, post-punk, and chillwave, all the while incorporating lyrical themes of identity, sexuality, belonging, and spirituality, among other issues that have the shaped his existence and those of his peers. Despite enlisting extensive supporting casts on later albums Cupid Deluxe (2013), Freetown Sound (2016), and Negro Swan (2018), all of which registered on Billboard's R&B and independent charts, Hynes' output has been resolutely individualist and deeply personal. Concurrent with Blood Orange's evolution as a collaborative outlet, Hynes himself has been sought out by a varied multitude of fellow artists such as Sky Ferreira, Solange, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Philip Glass. He has also provided music for films (Palo Alto, Queen & Slim), and has branched out into classical composition (Fields, performed by Third Coast Percussion).
Originally from East London, David Joseph Michael Hynes got his start in the mid-2000s in Test Icicles. The combustible dance-punk band released a handful of singles and an album, 2005's For Screening Purposes Only, issued on Domino, which would become Hynes' long-term label. Hynes then relocated to New York, and in 2007 launched Lightspeed Champion and landed his first of many major collaboration credits, as co-writer of the Chemical Brothers' "All Rights Reversed" (off the Grammy-winning We Are the Night). As Lightspeed Champion, Hynes made two comparatively conventional singer/songwriter-oriented LPs, Falling Off the Lavender Bridge (number 45, U.K. pop) and Life Is Sweet! Nice to Meet You (number 102), among a handful of EPs and numerous mixtapes, through 2010. Hynes shed the alias and adopted another one. Blood Orange debuted in early 2011 with "Dinner," a single that showcased a softer singing style necessitated by an emergency throat procedure he underwent the previous year. The song became the prelude to Coastal Grooves, which arrived that August on Domino and entered the U.K. chart at number 180. Hynes handled most of the instrumentation and worked closely with producer Ariel Rechtshaid, a frequent collaborator in the ensuing years.
Kylie Minogue ("Crystallize"), FKA twigs, Jessie Ware, Kindness, and Carly Rae Jepsen ("All That") account for just some of the artists who released Hynes-aided material from 2014 through 2016, during which Hynes continued to develop solo material. In June 2016, Hynes released Blood Orange album three, Freetown Sound. Named after the capital of Sierra Leone, the home country of Hynes' father, it was inspired by Hynes' West African roots, both genealogically and musically, with material that resonated deepest with marginalized black and queer listeners. Kindness and Jepsen reciprocated with their presence at the sessions, while Hynes added Debbie Harry and Nelly Furtado to his extended musical family. The album debuted at number six on the Billboard R&B chart and in the U.K. reached number 154.