Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
Release date: July 17
Frank Ocean is different, on many levels, and the music that lies within his debut Channel Orange is proof of that. While the New Orleans native –born Christopher “Lonny” Breaux– has been making headlines for his extremely poignant way of stating his love for another man, his music merits just as much respect. Ocean brings a background as an R&B writer to the table and adds a healthy serving of hiphop, resulting in a uniquely impressive album.
Right off the bat, with album opener ‘Thinking About You’, Ocean is operating in a unique world, both in terms of style and substance. One moment sounding like Drake, the next hitting falsettos that would make Thom Yorke jealous, the sounds here are only overcome by the lyrics which ask an unnamed love, ‘do you not think so far ahead, ’cause I’m thinking about forever‘.
It is that kind of immediacy with a sense of grand scale that guides Ocean’s work, both within each song and over the entire album. An album that is best listened to as a whole, Channel Orange employs interlude tracks, but gives them a purpose. Much like Kanye West’s albums, the interludes here are often spoken word, but unlike Kanye, they are not always tongue-in-cheek, there is a seriousness throughout.
After tearing through a few more personal tracks, including ‘Sierra Leone’ and criticism of upper-class carelessness ‘Sweet Life’, Ocean is joined by fellow Odd Future roster member Earl Sweatshirt for album highlight ‘Super Rich Kids’. Much like the afforementioned ‘Sweet Life’, ‘Super Rich Kids’ is, as the title implies, a commentary on the disposable lives that many of Ocean’s peers are living. The music here matches the lyrics in quality, and Earl Sweatshirt’s verse is a standout that gives some credo to the hype surrounding the elusive OFWGKTA member.
A healthy dose of R&B, in the form of ‘Pilot Jones’, separates ‘Super Rich Kids’ from another of the album’s absolute standouts and immediate classic ‘Crack Rock’. Taking the listener on a life’s journey through love, drug addiction and murder, the storytelling here is heartfelt and engaging. The fact that all of this is delivered over a heavy rap beat, complete with crisp ride and snare hits and understated keys is proof that Frank Ocean defies your expectations. Where as 24 years ago NWA simply stated ‘Fuck tha Police’, here Frank Ocean places a mirror in front of society with the lyrics “Crooked cop, dead cop/How much dope can you push to me/Crooked cop, dead cop/No good for community/Fucking pig get shot/Three hundred men will search for me/My brother get popped/And don’t no one hear the sound“.
Frank Ocean – Crack Rock
After that rather hard song, the back half of the album passes by with ease, smooth tracks like ‘Lost’ will have you swaying from side-to-side and wouldn’t be out of place on a summer mix. Things are so easy going and generally sexy on the album’s second half that John Mayer makes a pair of appearances (on guitar only) on both ‘Pyramids’ and the cheekily titled ‘White’.
The fact that acts as big as John Mayer, and André 3000 appear on this, just Ocean’s second full length, is proof of the respect he has throughout the industry. Having written songs for R&B stars like John Legend and Brandy, Ocean is now working on his own, and listeners should be thankful.