Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE: A Review
Frank Ocean, r&b singer and member of Odd Future, released channel ORANGE, his debut album, on July 10, 2012.
The first single, “Thinkin’ Bout You,” tackles the inherent fickleness of relationships. It’s what Maxwell would sound like without his tacky approach to romanticism.
On “Super Rich Kids,” Ocean shows how deep his pop roots go by offering a track that develops a predetermined subject (same goes for “Forrest Gump”); this method of song-writing is akin to poetry, in that the artist limits his subjective scope like a ballad or Shakespearean sonnet form limits verse; he cannot fill up time by spitting loosely associated mental wanderings without veering off topic. It is by focusing on this class of kids, and the substantial repercussions their money brings to the table, that Ocean and a haunting Earl Sweatshirt force themselves to and succeed at tailoring their skills to an existing semantic mould to produce an example of Darwinian hip-hop adaptation.
Around the 3:50 mark on “Pyramids,” Ocean turns up the Scissor Sisters and lets it be known that he can get down too; his overreliance on repetition to sustain this nine-minutes-plus mammoth is quickly evident, and can be forgiven on nerd credentials, namely the use of Cleopatra/Ancient Egypt as an allegorical device that doubles as a framing device for the story of a lover turned prostitute. Brilliant.
The album is full of prospective moments of brilliance: “Fertilizer” could easily be extended into a full song riding on its unexpected blend of bawdy and Motown. The memorable “Bad Religion” seeps tangentially into politics with the refrain, “If it brings me to my knees / It’s a bad religion,” and is backed up by Ocean’s agony-ridden high-register harmonies His relaxed and sombre delivery on “Pilot Jones” matches emotion with context, aiding listeners in occupying the space of an addicted dope dealer, in feeling her isolation; this is the difference between Ocean and someone like Chris Brown or Ne-yo: Ocean’s minimalistic production values and narrative-driven lyrics are not aimed at tween masses but at everyone old enough to find joy through the expression of personal pain: in this way, channel ORANGE dishes out as much blues as old-school soul rhythm.