Posted August 24, 2012
Few artists have matched Frank Ocean's meteoric rise to stardom. Although he has only one critically acclaimed mixtape to his catalog, Ocean has penned lyrics for established superstars such as Justin Bieber and Beyonce. He has also sang hooks for “Watch the Throne,” the collaborative effort of Jay-Z and protégé Kanye West, which dominated the charts in 2011. He is part of rowdy rap collective “Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All,” better known as Odd Future. Ocean stands out from the rest of the group because of his soft spoken demeanor contrasted by the rest of the group's devil-may-care attitude. Although soft spoken, Ocean is no stranger to bold moves. He left his home in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to pursue a music career in Los Angeles and sparked controversy two weeks ago when he outed himself as a bisexual via his Tumblr page. Some may call his confession as a marketing move, yet that does not detract from the bravery of his statement. However it is the only publicity that Ocean may need for this album.
“Channel Orange” opens with the sounds of a classic Playstation booting up, followed by a mastered “Thinking Bout You,” which is another bold move by the singer, considering the song was released to the internet around this time last year.“Thinking Bout You” and “Pilot Jones” are both songs that showcase Ocean's impressive falsetto and range as a singer. “Sweet Life” and “Super Rich Kids” are both catchy ballads that bring praise to the materialistic lifestyle. “Super Rich Kids” is one of the standouts on the album. Ocean paints a picture of dysfunctional upper-middle class teenagers of today. Too many bottles of this wine we can't pronounce/Too many bowls of that green, no lucky charms/ the maids come around too much/ parents aren't around enough. The track is assisted by Odd Future teammate Earl Sweatshirt, who doesn't outshine Ocean, but compliments the song well with his lazy yet precise delivery. The first half of the album is solid, but it is no match for the nine minute fifty three second centerpiece that is “Pyramids”. The song truly showcases Ocean's talents as he weaves a story drawing parallels between Cleopatra and a stripper working at the Luxor hotel in Las Vegas, all to an ever-evolving trippy electro beat.
While Ocean has a unique voice that he uses to his advantage, his strongest suit is his songwriting abilities. He has proven not to be only a singer, but a storyteller in the fullest. Channel Orange is full of different stories that Ocean renders through his lyrics. On “Bad Religion” he treats the taxicab as his own confessional, asking the driver to “outrun the demons.” He weaves a complex story about being tormented by having unrequited love with a man who cannot love him back alongside the sounds of church organs. Although he has proven to be one of the brightest new talents to hit the music scene in a long time, his songwriting abilities are the foundation for this album.
For those expecting the album to be about his struggle with his sexuality, Channel Orange finds Ocean mostly speaking of his female-related problems. The album is a solid first offering from Mr. Ocean. It has complex lyrics, even more twisted metaphors, a unique delivery, strangely addicting infectious beats, it is everything that an album should strive to be. With the radio being flooded with garbage pop singers undeserving of the title of artist, Ocean sets himself apart from the crowd while bringing rhythm and blues back for the new generation.
Rating 4.5 out of 5
“Channel Orange” is available for purchase on July 17th and is currently available on iTunes.