- Channel Orange by Frank Ocean Label: Def Jam Release Date: July 10th 2012
“Orange reminds me of the first summer I fell in love. Aww…”, said Frank Ocean in a Tumblr post explaining the meaning behind his major label debut, Channel Orange. Frank Ocean introduced himself to the world in 2011 through the means of his 2011 mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra. The normally introverted Ocean garnered the world’s attention as people fell in love with his honest lyrics surrounding relationships, ideals, and social commentary. The mixtape’s impact was felt when the biggest names in music, Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Beyoncé requested his contribution to their massive albums. It’s legacy holds it up as one of the best releases of 2011, period. Following a brief tour between the US and Europe, Channel Orange was put into motion and birthed stellar tracks such tender ballad, “Thinkin Bout You” and the ambitious, “Pyramids” – both which play critical parts on this voyage.
After tuning us listeners into his station of choice, Channel Orange on the intro “Start”, we kick off with one of the album’s strongest tracks – “Thinking Bout You.” Fluctuating between his groovy baritone and almost nimble falsetto, the vibrant orange glow exudes as he croons about his unforgettable first love – one which eventually ended in despair. The experience of being a young man in California experiencing what seems to be “love” is planted on “Sierra Leone”, and is in full blossom on the cut “Sweet Life.” “Sweet Life”, co-produced by Pharrell, is one of Ocean’s strongest vocal showings as he channels Musiq Soulchild on this incredibly lush track. Ocean admittedly loses himself in the lap of luxury rather than experience the world for what it truly is.
The theme of money and love are intertwined from hear on out with the brand new couple – and the interlude “Not Just Money” stamps that fact firmly. The lone Odd Future sighting on the album by Earl Sweatshirt, comes on the stand-out “Super Rich Kids”. Sampling the steady beat of Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets”, along with the lyrics of Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love” – Ocean sings about the fabricated happiness of the west coast upper echelon while at the same time trying to claw from genuine emotion. “Pilot Jones” and “Crack Rock” tie a darker theme of drugs into the unwinding tale of money and love, and provide interesting metaphors despite not living up to some of the bolder, more alluring tracks of the album.
The album truly reaches it’s apex on the previously released 10 minute marathon, “Pyramids”. The story of Cleopatra’s rise and demise metaphorically describes the relationship between Frank and his lady lover turned prostitute. It kicks off as a quite groovy, spacey, funk opus before eventually plunging into the more methodical despair that is Frank’s life, as he transitions from the pimp to the customer. The most vivid and inspiring track of the album extends to almost 10 minutes, yet still manages to keep your attention the whole way through.
FRANK OCEAN PERFORMS “BAD RELIGION” LIVE ON LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON
“Bad Religion” might be the most telling track of the album, and one of the more strongest, and prominent tracks of Frank Ocean’s career taking in account his recent headlines. The explicit, stripped, gripping taxi cab confession revisits the orange glow explored on “Thinkin ‘Bout You.” He is immersed within the deepest state of depression as the organs blare over his initial love. The torturing, yet still amazing, conflict continues in the brilliant “Pink Matter” which features an extra cold verse from Andre 3000 himself – as he’s met with the conflict of pleasure over what really matters. The ending of the tale of “Forrest Gump” features Ocean assuming the role of Jenny as he longs for his first love – who is referred to as “Forrest Gump” . The light number cushions the listener down before the album’s eventual “End”, while still attempting to swallow that pill of unrequited love
Channel Orange is a forward leap in quality when compared to his 2011 effort, Nostalgia, Ultra and leagues ahead of many of his R&B peers today. While many have taken the dance-pop route in order to keep in line with current trends, Ocean keeps it R&B while at the same time adding elements of funk, rock, and jazz to his haunting, revealing, and gripping lyrics for truly one top notch album. The top notch album, as people may have jumped to a conclusion from last week, isn’t a bold, attention seeking, coming out party for the bi-sexual singer. Instead, journey through a young man’s already troubled life in the pursuit of love.