Def Jam/The Island Def Jam Music Group
Release Date: July 10, 2012
Let me start off this post as such…
I usually do hip-hop/rap reviews, however, I’ve receive multiple requests to review this project (‘Channel Orange’), so this project I will review. For those of you whose first time this is reading one of my reviews, welcome. For those of you who’ve read one of my reviews, welcome back. Thanks for you all’s time & attention; you could’ve been reading any review in the world, but you’re here reading mine, and again, I thank you.
Many are familiar with Frank Ocean due to his appearance on Jay-Z’s & Kanye West’s ‘Watch The Throne’ project, in which the crooner features on “No Church in the Wild” & “Made In America“. I, myself, became aware of the Nawlins (“New Orleans”) native by way of ‘Nostalgia, Ultra’, which is a superb project might I add (Download HERE), along with the buzz surrounding it. After a few brief moments of listening, I, too, had been caught up in the enigmatic talent wave that is Christopher Francis Ocean a.k.a. Frank Ocean (Get it? Wave? Frank Ocean?). And after the project’s conclusion, I had fallen in love (with his music) and had become a fan.
But before I even get into the review, I am going to go ahead and address the pink elephant in the room, if you will. On this year’s Independence Day, of all days, the Mr. Ocean took to his Tumblr to liberate himself by revealing his experience of love at age 19 with another male, who did not return the favor. If you’d like, you can read that passage HERE. In fitting form, Frank Ocean made his television debut, or coming out, so to speak, on ‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallon’, similar to his OFWGTKA collagues, Tyler, The Creator & Hodgy Beats. On Jimmy Fallon, Ocean performed “Bad Religion”, the record that sparked, or re-sparked, this entire conversation in our community. Check out the performance below:
Now, I live by the mantra of “Just Do You”, in addition to Nike’s “Just Do It”. Take a look at this segment of a ‘Seinfeld’ episode HERE, I think it sort of explains my stance (go to 2:56 if you do not want watch the entire snippet). Hopefully you got a little humor out of that. Anyhow, while Ocean’s “coming out” is a big step, one may not be as shocked of a R&B singer coming out than, say, a rapper. I’m still curious to know if there will ever be an OPEN gay RAPPER of RELEVANCE (Key words: “open”, “rapper” & “relevance”). But that’s in another forum, the purpose of this posting is to review Frank Ocean’s debut LP, ‘Channel Orange’. However, for more on his “coming out”, Helena Andrews discusses the ripple-effect caused by Frank Ocean’s revelation’s HERE.
I will say, that even before this event, it seems as if the world, or at least my world, had been waiting for this album, hence my Twitter T/L explosing at my usual dwelling hours of 3 A.M. and understandably so. As I’ve previously mentioned, Ocean is an exceptional talent. So now we have what the world’s been waiting for in ‘Channel Orange’: a complete LP from Mr. Ocean. In regards to the album title, Ocean stated via Twitter:
“Orange is a color of liberation, from the pains of hurtful love and inner insecurities. To ‘channel orange’ is to truly be free, to be you…”
And that statement is certaintly a way to describe Frank Ocean’s music, liberated. On the musical journey that is ‘Channel Orange’, the 24-year old visits subjects beyond the usual R&B-singer topics of love and relationships. Ocean roams into themes such as drug addiction, injustice, class & sexuality, amongst others, and uses the gift of his songwriting to relay his messages. Frank writes songs in a such a way that listeners are seemingly baffled as to what he is expressing. “What does it mean?”…”is it literal?”…”is it figuartive?” In songwriting, many of the stories songwriters may use are actually not autobiographic; they are usually fictional tales utilized to simply relay a general message. But that’s the beautiful thing about music. Music is art and art is open for interpretation by the beholder. No one truly knows the meaning of the said art unless you’re the work’s artist.
Aside from wanting to post the first-week’s sales numbers (see Conclusion), this review was intentionally posted a week later to allow you to develop your own take. And I, like you, have my take and here it is…
*The majority of ‘Channel Orange’ was done by Frank Ocean, Malay & Om’Mas Keith (of Sa’Ra)*
Frank, who is sleeping, is awakened by a text (he apparently has an iPhone). From there, he starts up his Playstation 1 and begins to play ‘Street Fighter 2′ (I know, I’m such a nerd). And thus begins the project that is ‘Channel Orange’. A video game could be symbolic for life, of which you have control, but do not make the rules.
2. “Thinkin Bout You” (Produced by Shea Taylor)
Ocean gets things started with the familiar, year-old sultry single “Thinkin Bout You”. Although the Shea Taylor-produced record has more of a ‘Nostalgia, Ultra’ feel, I think it was an intelligent choice to lead with this to accompany listeners in making a smooth transition in his musical evolution. On “Thinkin Bout You”, Ocean, who likens to a Maxwell sound-wise, daydreams of his significant other and wonders if the feelings are reciprocated. This record serves as a recital (anthem?) of rejection. Great record
Not sure how familiar you are with Frank’s work, but he uses these off-the-wall, yet appropriate, interludes to tie the songs of a project together, and on ‘Channel Orange’, it’s no different. The funky (no pun) interlude of “Fertilizer”, sampling the James Fauntleroy record, seems to say that he willing to put up with this person’s BS, or “fertilizer”, if that’s all he can get. Next record…
4. “Sierra Leone”
“Sierra Leone” is a tale of teenage “love” and, consequently, parenthood in the ironic land of blood diamonds. I say ironic because the diamonds themselves are beautiful, but the means it takes to get the ends are horrific. I feel “Sierra Leone” is a record to illustrate both ends of the spectrum of love.
5. “Sweet Life” (Co-Produced by Pharrell Williams)
On the quite groovy Pharrell co-produced/co-penned record, Ocean, who channels his inner-Stevie [Wonder], seems to speak on horizon expansion as well as the “Ignorance is Bliss” cliché, hence the rhetorical question: “Why see the world, when you got the beach?”
6. “Not Just Money”
On this interlude, a lady explains the signifiance on money, which transitions to…
7. “Super Rich Kids” featuring Earl Sweatshirt
This record is a continuation of the previous track’s subject matter. “SRK”, which is set in Ladera Heights (the “Black Beverly Hills”), discusses the idleness of being a “rich kid” and the rebellion that occurs as a result of the Devil’s playpen. Ocean, who does inserts a little rendition Mary J.’s “Real Love”, confesses to be “searching for a real love”, which can mean searching something different, or something new. Also, fellow OFWGKTA member, Earl Sweatshirt, who has been compared to the legend Nas, makes a guest appearance on record and serves as the flipside to Frank approach; sort of reminds you of Charles Hamilton. Check it out for yourself:
8. “Pilot Jones”
On the smooth record that is “Pilot Jones”, Frank seems to be telling a tale of his “love jones” with a woman who is strung- out (on his love maybe?), and he hers. Short, but sweet.
9. “Crack Rock”
“Crack Rock” is one of the more surprising records on the project. Reason being, Frank gets a little political on this one. This record comments on issues such as drugs, and the “war” on them, as well as broken homes and law enforcement corruption. It’s a solid record.
This record is arguably the most popular record on ‘Channel Orange’, making it a pretty smart choice for the project’s next single. As a matter of fact, the nearly 10-minute upbeat record is maybe the biggest record on the album. Time aside, listeners stay entertained throughout the duration. The first half of the song has a techno/dance feel and it makes me want to take shots, fist pump, and dance like MJ. The second half makes me want to pull my cap down and ride through the city with my windows down and the music up. I will try to break this down…
“Pyramids” seems to be a tale of a regular, unemployed joe losing his queen (“Cleopatra”) from their home (“Ancient Egypt”) to a pimp (“Samson”) to pursue a life of whoredom by working at the Pyramid (Vegas?). The first verse seems to be from the male’s POV, the 2nd verse from the pimp’s (“Samson”), and the final verse from the male’s POV again. The only this is that I’m not sure if he’s referring to an actually women or maybe just a general love, such as music. Definitely a superb record. Take a listen:
***READ PART 2 HERE***