Channel Orange – Frank Ocean (2012)

Verdict – 9.3

The debut album by Odd Future member Frank Ocean is an ambitious undertaking, layered with textures, complex ideas, lyrical storytelling and an underlying maturity throughout. Although dominantly an R&B/neo soul album, it spans many musical styles, taking influence from jazz, funk, electro and verging on psychedelic sometimes, Channel Orange is laced with stellar production and control.

Ocean’s lyrical talent is evident, and is the main reason it elevates Channel Orange from a standard R&B output to something that little bit extra. Real opener Thinkin Bout You, showcases atmospheric production surrounding lyrics about a struggling relationship and feelings of regret towards it. This song really shows Ocean’s vocal ability, as his falsetto is used to great effect. Album centrepiece, Pyramids, is the most ambitious song on the album, following a pimp’s love for a client, and relating a modern day prostitute to Cleopatra. The narrative is impressive, and ends with the lyric, “but your love ain’t free no more”, suggesting like Cleopatra, men of power have been reduced of dignity and pride as the pimp now has to pay for the love that was once his. The album’s best track, Bad Religion, has Ocean using his taxi driver as a psychiatrist, pondering his purpose as he questions about religion, God, and unrequited loves. “If it brings me to my knees, it’s a bad religion”, saying if one should ever need to ask for forgiveness, suggesting that they do not accept him for who he is, then it is, a bad religion.

There is no doubt there is a lot of ambition and scope in Channel Orange, especially with it being his debut album, one can only respect and commend his effort. It can be fair to assume that a lot of people may not favour his atmospheric songs, or his instrumentals/skits, as (although not a polarising album) people will look to try find things to dislike in Channel Orange due to the hype it has received. Although maybe I could find certain things I dislike in relation to the rest of the album, Channel Orange is overall, a very cohesive record and a great sign of things to come. One of the best of the year.

Top Songs – Thinkin Bout You, Pyramids, Bad Religion


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