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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Frank Ocean - channel ORANGE

You’ve probably already heard, and if you haven’t, then listen carefully, R&B vocalist Frank Ocean’s new album channel ORANGE is very, very good.  You’ve most likely already heard Frank Ocean at some point, whether it was his own voice or not.  After Katrina hit New Orleans, the Louisiana native left his dorm at the University of New Orleans and headed for Los Angeles to give music a shot.  After cutting a Demo CD and handing it out around town, Ocean landed a songwriting gig for artist including Brandy, John Legend, and Justin Bieber.  Ocean gained notoriety as a songwriter and was signed by Def Jam in 2009 as an individual artist.  In early 2011, while working with Odd Future, Ocean released the mixtape Nostalgia via his Tumblr account.  Later that year he appeared as a featured artist on Beyonce’s 4, Tyler the Creator’s Goblin and Jay-Z/Kanye West’s Watch the Throne.  Def Jam released two singles off Ocean’s mixtape including “Novacane” and “Swim Good” which reached 17 and 70 respectively on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart.  Now, after help from fellow producers Pharrell Williams, Malay, and Om’Mas Keith, we are left with channel ORANGE for our ear’s enjoyment. 

The heartbreaking opening track, “Thinkin’ Bout You” reminisces about a first love as Ocean demonstrates his range, from smooth verse vocals to a falsetto that will raise goose bumps the first time heard.  Ocean exhibits his writing ability with heartfelt lyrics, pouring his emotions into the track as he sings “It will never get old, not in my soul, not in my spirit, keep it alive, we'll go down this road 'til it turns from color to black and white.”

“Super Rich Kids” will have your head nodding, eyes closed, and while the feeling of the song may have you tapping your toes, the lyrics deal with a much more serious matters.  Ocean examines the life of a super rich kid, “too many joy rides in daddy’s Jaguar, too many white lies and white lines.” The theme’s deal with white-collar drugs, rebelling against parents who aren’t around, and pretension.  The song contrasts the interlude “Not Just Money” where a mother scolds her son, explaining the necessity for money in order to live comfortably.

The nearly 10 minute ballad titled “Pyramids” tells Ocean’s encounter with a modern day Cleopatra who is “Working at the pyramid tonight.”  The beautifully written song will keep you on the edge of your seat if you’re listening carefully, yet the production of the song yields to a larger audience than musical connoisseurs, and is sure to be heard in your favorite club.  Concluding the song is a mystical guitar solo done by none other than John Mayer. 

I’ve merely scratched the surface of this album.  To fully comprehend its depth, themes, and greatness you really have to take the time and listen to the 17 long track debut album for yourself.  I promise you will not be disappointed.  Frank Ocean has made a grand entrance to the music industry with channel ORANGE, one of the best debut albums of 2012.

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