Coming off the heels of a major revelation, Frank Ocean’s debut studio album, Channel Orange is already causing quite a stir.
This publicity, combined with an early digital release on iTunes, has perhaps created a buzz much larger than anyone could have imagined. In an age where album sales are often satisfactory at best, this one is projected to sell, if not exceed, 135.000 copies in its first week alone. While the young crooner’s proclamation has led to some negative backlash, no one can dispute his talent as an artist. Channel Orange certainly sets Frank Ocean apart from the rest.
Back in February of last year, the Odd Future member released his first mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra, featuring the hit single, “Novacane.” The mixtape went on to be an enormous success and the name Frank Ocean began to rise over night. A few months later Frank helped Jay-Z and Kanye West Watch The Throne, contributing his vocals to the tracks “No Church in the Wild” and “Made in America.” As an artist, Frank could not be anymore legit, and from there the rest is perhaps a blur.
Fast forward to July 2012, a week before Channel Orange is officially released anywhere, the crafty R&B singer made an announcement that conceivably changed everything. Through franckocean.com, he relayed a story about his first love, unrequited by another male. The artist who sang “Songs for Women” had come out in a different light, but not without tons of support from fans and fellow artists alike. Above all else, the music still speaks for itself.
On his Tumblr page, Frank Ocean wrote, “Orange reminds me of the summer I first fell in love,” which perfectly translates into Channel Orange. The album starts with the familiar sounds of the Sony PlayStation intro screen, before diving into “Thinkin Bout You;” a nostalgic melody that has been floating around the web for some time, yet remaining intact. “Sierra Leone” is a placid metaphor of a far off Eden, while “Sweet Life” projects a more tangible, “domesticated paradise.”
“Super Rich Kids,” featuring Earl Sweatshirt, takes a more upbeat route, sampling Elton John’s Benny & the Jets to regale the tale of privileged youth in the search for something real. The longest and most inspired track has to be “Pyramids.” At nine minutes, the monologue is a mash-up of two songs laden over electronic exhausts and an underlying bass line with a not so soft sentiment, as Frank swoons after a lost Cleopatra; “what good is a jewel that ain’t still precious?” It is a track of many layers to say the least.
The last three tracks before the “End” all allude to his dual sexuality, with the lyrics in “Forrest Gump” being the most blatant. “Bad Religion” plays a somber processional of internal conflicts and “Pink Matter,” featuring a sharp Andre 3000 brings up metaphysical questions with masked undertones. Then suddenly, Channel Orange fades out in a cloud of contentment.
Channel Orange is a coming of age story in more ways then one. As a debut album it is a thoroughly constructed ensemble with solid production. If one truly listens, a much deeper narrative becomes visible below the surface, creating a strong balance between substance and entertainment value. Time will tell how the public will continue to respond to Frank Ocean as a whole, but there is no denying his musical intellect. Other notable songs include “Lost” and the instrumental “White,” featuring John Mayer.
Grade: B (4 out of 5 )
by: Joshua Taylor