Ocean's 'channel ORANGE' marks stunning debut
Published: Monday, July 16, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 23:07
Frank Ocean’s first major-label release, “channel ORANGE,” is in a word, breathtaking.
The 24-year old singer songwriter has been around for quite some time, ghostwriting songs for everyone from John Legend to Justin Bieber. Ocean, whose real name is Christopher Breaux, had a previously released mixtape, “Nostalgia, Ultra.” He was a member of OFWGKTA, appeared at Coachella and finished second in the BBC’s prestigious “Sound of 2012” poll.
Now, with “channel ORANGE,” Ocean is positioned to place himself in the cannon of hip-hop/R&B greatness. The actual album is scheduled for release on July 17 but is currently available on iTunes for those who can’t wait – and trust me, you can’t wait.
“channel ORANGE” has all the elements of great songwriting and incredible instrumentation.
Usually with an album, especially a debut album, two or three — or if you’re lucky, four — tracks really stand out as predictions of what the artist will be capable of in the future.
Not so with Ocean and “channel ORANGE.”
Every track is a hit — a knockout that deserves the listeners full attention. No song is less or more than the song preceding it. This makes for one of the most enjoyable listening experiences a music lover can hope for.
On the track “Pyramids,” Ocean brilliantly channels an Egyptian pharaoh vibe, which within the 10-minutes of the song swings from ancient tombs to Los Angeles strip clubs, the metaphor being the queens of Egypt have returned as L.A.’s queens of the club. With “Bad Religion,” Ocean seems to shed all layers of skin and reveal himself as desperate and lovelorn and questioning everything from the backseat of a cab. Heavy with strings representative of sorrow, Ocean laments “To me it’s nothing but a one man cult and cyanide in my Styrofoam cup.”
“Sweet Life” is rife with critical observations about class and privilege in the era of the “1 percent,” and how wealth can shield one from much of the world’s ugliness.
Rich with horns that mirror the affluence Ocean is so critical of, the lyrics contradict the sound of the track and call foul on the creature comforts provided to the very few and very lucky. “Why see the world when you’ve got the beach?” Ocean asks.
In the track “Thinkin’ Bout You,” originally released in 2011, Ocean is at his R&B finest, again lamenting the pain of unrequited love.
Sung with falsetto vocals, Ocean is smooth and consistent even where his lyrics are not. Details are left out, the listener is left with questions, but all this adds to the emotion of Ocean’s unfinished feelings toward his unconquered lover.
This kind of songwriting is the perfect example of Ocean’s talent. He knows when to deliver, and when to hold back.
“channel ORANGE” is rife with celebrity guests, including Earl Sweatshirt from Odd Future on the track “Super Rich Kids,” John Mayer on “White” and Andre 3000 on “Pink Matter.” Not that the album needs any help.
Ocean is strong enough a musician to stand entirely on his own, and fans of “channel ORANGE” can look forward to many more years of superior music from this 24-year-old musician.