Album Reviews, Culture, RnB / Soul — September 12, 2012 at 10:37 am

Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE

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Artist Name: Frank Ocean
Title Name: channel ORANGE
Label: The Island Def Jam Group / Distribution: MCA Universal
Reviewed by: Chris Strom

From first listen, channel ORANGE is smooth, soulful, mature and seemingly beyond Frank Ocean’s 24 years. While essentially an R&B record, there are elements of neo-soul, psychedelic, jazz-funk and electro-funk. Ocean effortlessly controls these eclectic elements giving each track its own unique flavour, from the soulful first single “Thinkin Bout You” to the synth-funk of “Pyramids”, which even finishes with an acid-rock guitar solo! 

While the album’s first single “Thinkin Bout You” immediately shows off Ocean’s remarkable soulful voice and received much critical acclaim, this song is of the weaker, where the album’s eccentricity is found later in the album. The opening track, aptly named “Start” is a collection of obscure sounds, including a text message tone and a Playstation starting up. This is the first of several interlude tracks that contain ambient noise, white noise and channel flicking. These interludes starkly contrast the hi-fi songs making them seemingly more powerful but also more real. The minute long “Not Just Money” features the impatient ticking of a car indicator while a woman talks about the importance of money for happiness.

 The second half of the album is mixed up with the almost 10 minute track “Pyramids” which tells the curious story of Cleopatra travelling through time to work at The Pyramid, a strip club. Then comes all the fun of drug smuggling with “Lost”, equipped with a fantastic Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas sample. 

The album comes to a close with tracks “Bad Religion”, in which he admits his unrequited love to a cab driver, and “Thinkin Bout You”, a letter once written to describe the years in the lead up to making channel ORANGE.

Upon releasing channel ORANGE, Ocean published an open letter on his Tumblr blog. He daringly spoke of the unrequited feelings he had for another young man when he was 19, his first true love. On top of the seemingly effortless musical variation is Ocean’s songwriting that crosses such themes as unrequited love, upper class decadence and drug dependency which he hits with subtle humour, surrealistic imagery and most of all, a powerful sense of honesty and authenticity. 

 

VIDEO

Frank Ocean – Thinking About You

 

Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE is available on iTunes and mymusicstore.com.ph