With coming out as a gay man the support for Frank Ocean’s album ‘Channel Orange’ has surprising grown after the revelations earlier in the week, Frank’s passion for the project was so high he released the album off scheldule last night on iTunes following a performance on Jimmy Fallon that is set to propel sales even higher than already anticipated. But how good is the album, did it need all the press about sexuality or does it fulfill the promise shown by the California living R&B crooner with his previous mixtape ‘Nostalgia, Ultra’.
Playing out like an indie movie with a backdrop of Playstation 1 sound effects that mirrors the beginning of Ultra with Street Fighter 2 being the introduction to this channel. Kicking off with a similar vibe to Nostalgia makes Frank’s evavescent storytelling come across as unforced, like it’s such a natural setting for him, you can imagine sitting back in a big Chrysler flowing through Route 66 imagining lost loves and that’s the picture he paints. If you have ever seen the film Brick you’d kinda get where I was coming from with that analogy.
Thinkin’ About You, the song that propelled Franky into the mainstream (on a real note) has been switched up with orchestral strings added and just a more beefy sounding beat, remastered to perfection; a good way to kick of the album, something we know that manages to balance out the pre-coming out Ocean with the new Bi-sexual Frank we all still love, I reckon this was probably a considered move, get the ladies back on side at the beginning, it’s totally contrasting to the last track ‘Forest Gump‘ which is an ode to the first love of his life, the man who changed our perceptions so much last week. An exceptional tracklisting idea which keeps the listener on their toes, plus keeping to the point in Frank’s life that means the most.
Sierra Leone, the Pharrel produced ‘Sweet Life’ comprise perfectly into almost 1 flowing track, it’s one of the things the album manages to do so well is flow like a never-ending tape, it’s a skill only few can replicate and Channel Orange manages to mar the slow drums with almost CGI movie sounding effects, it’s an orchestral album like a score to a film. All the Hollywood cliche’s are in the album, playing out like a Taratino film in the middle section with ‘Super Rich Kids‘ and yet sounding like Fantasia on certain numbers. It’s a vivid picture painting project confusing the mind at times with lyrical content, offering us the chance to dive right into the realms of someone who is obviously changing and evolving in the world he finds himself.
‘Sweet Life’ offers a view into the life of someone well off, purging Frank’s want to explore with what we would expect as everything we could ever want, but the beach is much more of a draw to Ocean’s mysterious side. It’s an explorers mind we all wish we had and shows having everything you could dream possibly isn’t the be all and end all of our lives.
Super Rich Kids continues this idea of how kids growing up with rich parents are not the complete characters in the video game of life, linking back to the Playstation effect at the start, Channel Orange is an album showcasing what makes us. “Real Love” is repeated in the middle of the track, what brings us together, what makes our relationships real. It’s as if Earl Sweatshirt’s feature is meant to represent the other side of life, the lower classes, bringing the two together is when you find the “Real Love”.
The 10 minute feature film soundtracking song ‘Pyramids’ is about a girl of Frank’s affection who can’t seem to keep her business and pleasure escapades seperate, working at the pyramid symbolizes her street hustling, pole dancing ways with Frank calling for her to just come back to him, almost minimalist dub-step choruses take the listener into the hectic mind of the girl and Frank himself. Switching into slowed down 80′s electro keyboards brings the pace back down, she’s home and contemplating her life, so is the hero. Back into the club again with Frank talking from the perspective of the girl “working at the Pyramid tonight”. It’s an epic tale of love, lust, sex, confusion and disguised feelings that effortlessly takes the public on a journey, her love isn’t free but her mind is.
Lost continues the progression of Pyramids and another classic interlude from the amazing John Mayer entitled ‘White’ with a simple yet entrancing guitar solo that works to break up the game that is life, the film were all watching is now on break, get ready for the uptempo ‘Monks’ that contrasting to the title is about getting high and fucking the life out of a girl. Taking it to the skies, mosh pitting at shows and going back to being in love all the same school. Painting the picture of a lost monk’stress (is that a word) wanting to get away from her spiritual side and just being in love for the feeling rather than the end goal of spirituality. Escaping to freedom…
‘Bad Religion’ is a track that starts like a Coldplay song, big chords, and simple lyrics take us into the scenario of a taxi jounrney in which Frank pours out all his feelings to an unsuspecting cabbie. It’s also one of the tracks where the open’ness of his sexuality come to the forefront, the whole track is about his desire to be with a man, unrequited love is mentioned as a one man cult, a “Bad Religion”. Frank can’t make him love him, it’s a horrible sight if you could imagine it, A man pouring his heart out to a taxi driver because he feels so low. That’s one thing that the controversy about his choice of partner that keeps us all tight knit on his music, Love is a feeling, not neccesarily between a man and woman but between two people, the feelings we all feel whether it’s gay or straight feel the same, Frank is a magician with words, his metaphors and story-telling are what make him such an exceptional artist, not his choice of partner. We can all relate to ‘Bad Religion’ in our own lives.
Andre 3000 then shows up on the marvelous ‘Pink Matter’ that funnily enough puts two artist together whose storytelling abilities are on the same scale, the track focuses on the differences between us, the pink matter represents the inside of a women, the carrying of a child. But what really defines us, is it merely our minds (the grey matter) or what we can do with our bodies; the pink matter. It’s a crowning moment on the album, the chemistry between both artists is perfect, a joint project would be a good thing.
‘Forest Gump’ is the contrast to ‘Thinkin’ About You’, the song about Frank’s first love, a man, Forest is the man who ran away from him. He’s running on Frank’s mind. The relatable feeling of pain is not gender specific and even listening to the track you can take parts of it and throw it directly into the relatable situations in your own life. The “Cigarretes” burnt into us all give us the same pain and we all have that one person that runs on our mind. That one person who leaves us wanting more, yet we hate them at the same time. It’s a sentiment that comes up throughout the album, yet it will the track that gets talked about more than others because of the gay connotations within it.
Channel Orange is more than just the gay album Frank Ocean released, it’s a album filled with storytelling unmatched in R&B music right now, the indie movie backdrop plays with the mind, sucks you in and makes you feel like your actually playing the Hero role of Frank Ocean, a masking perspective on an album that blows the doors of sexuality, love, religion and symbolism. Confessions that compare with Otis Redding, stories matching Sorkin and musicality that makes Frank the modern day D’Angelo; smooth as hell but with what you could argue even more in depth feelings provoked. When Frank is in love he falls hard, his world turns upside, he changes himself, but right hear on the project we see a man growing up, becoming the man he want’s to be. The Channel Orange is Frank Ocean’s is Frank Ocean’s life, it’s his own Truman show, we watch his life unfold in front of us, Love is real, the feelings we feel are the same.
Frank Ocean – Channel Orange = 9/10
(Added sidenote: Any publications stating Frank Ocean as a rapper are idiots, don’t even read them, we need to take the genre out of music, it’s a way of classifying black people in certain genre’s and it’s starting to annoy me, rant over)