Frank Ocean | channel Orange
Odd Future’s Frank Ocean Follows 2011’s Mixtape, nostalgia ULTRA, with an Epic 17-Track Debut
Odd Future member Frank Ocean made a big commotion in the R&B world last year with the premiere of his mixtape nostalgia ULTRA. A bold, no holds barred EP that contained a set of blissful vocals and extremely personal, revealing lyrics (sometimes too revealing) that gave us a closer look at the R&B swooner that occasionally felt a little too close for comfort (similar to other R&B newcomer The Weeknd’s House of Balloons release of the same year) but overall it was a masterpiece of a release. With this budding hype, of course I was excited for his upcoming debut album channel ORANGE and it definitely surpasses the record that brought him into the spotlight.
Opening with the aptly named, Start, which begins with the sound of a video game console powering up, Ocean then goes straight into Thinking About You, a classic type of R&B song powered by his smooth vocal tones that turn the track into a sweet tune about loving those who may not be thinking about you. This form of classic R&B continues into Sierra Leone which has some interesting speaking vocals and a catchy drum beat that’ll have you bobbing your head while you listen to how Ocean puts the moves on a girl he’s into. And the inappropriately named Sweet Life, which for me is the least liked song on the album, simply because it seems too similar to other R&B songs that I’ve heard before—not bad just not different enough. Then we head into more fare and for me, the more enjoyable songs of the album that show off Ocean’s writing and singing talents along with some amazing beats.
There’s the Benny and the Jets piano riff cover Super Rich Kids, a song about depressed rich kids and their bad friends and crappy families which ultimately ends in suicide. It’s an experience. It has a great cameo by fellow Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt about reckless action and destruction, all to a simple piano and some drums that slow it all down into the R&B form, but overall it’s a disturbing hit. There’s also Crack Rock with an opening line about being left all alone in Arkansas with a crack rock and a cold dick. Ocean then begins to tell the details of a relationship about unprotected sex and drug use, a tell-all tale in the form of an R&B song that Frank’s becoming quite known for. This leads into the epic 10 minute Pyramids which breaks up the middle of the album.
Sadly after those couple songs the nest three tracks don’t seem to capture the same type of mood and experience that the earlier ones have. They’re not bad; it’s just that they seem not as spectacular as the first half of the album. It picks up with the last four starting with Bad Religion, a string filled song that seems the most heartfelt and vocally pleasing as Frank Ocean slows down a little and tells a taxi driver a story about escaping life. Right after, it goes into the sexually ambiguous, guitar-full slow jam Pink Matter with a guest appearance by Rap legend and Outkast member Andre 3000 that’s truly a treat before leading into the two final songs. Overall it’s a wonderful album. There are some slow bumps along the way, but the songs that are great really standout and are amazing. This album’s definitely a game changer in music, and it’s one of my favorite albums of the year.