Dev Hynes, the artist often known for creating and releasing music under his moniker of Blood Orange, is one of Britain’s most underappreciated modern artists.
Ilford’s prodigal son celebrates production credits alongside illustrious names such as HAIM, Florence & The Machine, Harry Styles, Solange, A$AP Rocky, Mac Miller, Blondie and countless others. Hynes, who views music through a kaleidoscopic, genre-melding lens, has emerged as one of the most sought after collaborators in contemporary music.
With that in mind, it may be surprising to hear that R.E.M. played a special part in his life and, in truth, has done ever since he was growing up in East London. The influence that the band had on Blood Orange is perhaps minimal, but his earlier work under his former Lightspeed Champion persona sees his love of the group float to the surface.
Back before he was the dazzling, New York-based R&B sensation Blood Orange, Hynes was part of the rising indie-folk scene in the late 2000s — which is a world away from the alchemy he’s been cooking up over the last decade, but still delightful nonetheless.
In an interview from 2017 with Pedestrian, Hynes opened up about his ten favourite songs of all time, and it’s R.E.M.’s ‘Beat A Drum’ from 2000 that holds the most prized keys to his heart.
“This is from my favourite R.E.M. album, Reveal. I was 15 when this record came out. and I was so stoked on it,” Hynes explains. “The album felt nostalgic back then for some reason and still does now. The verses have them attempting some kind of Brian Wilson type thing.. that’s not as awful as that sounds. It’s actually incredible.”
Critics received the album with mixed reviews at the time. However, as the years have passed, the general perception around Reveal has grown in favour. After they experimented with Up in 1988, R.E.M. reverted back to what they know best on Reveal, creating an understated classic which rivals Automatic For The People.
R.E.M.’s Peter Buck later spoke to Under The Radar about the album, he said: “I’m proud of pretty much everything I’ve done, and when we finished the record I thought it was pretty good, and now that R.E.M.’s over and you get a chance to look at how everything went from this place to that place, it’s kind of an interesting little [place] we went down.”
Adding: “It has a Jimmy Webb and Glenn Campbell vibe with a Krautrock filter, with The Beach Boys too, who were always in our D.N.A.”
That record arrived at Hynes’ life at an important juncture and the memories attached to that period have helped solidify his love for Reveal. There’s no denying that ‘Beat A Drum’ is a superb song, but for Hynes, it’s more than just another piece of music. It’s a cherished memory of adolescence, and when he presses play on Reveal, he returns to being that 15-year-old boy from Ilford with a dream.