Top positive review
22 of 25 people found this helpful
Frank Ocean - The Discovery Channel
on 15 July 2012
By the time Frank Ocean made his recent broadcast television debut on the Jimmy Fallon show performing the epic "Bad Religion" the secret was out and so was Frank. His admission in a recent letter on tumbir.com that he was bi-sexual finally dragged hip hop with its often vicious homophobia screaming into the 21st century and hopefully the whole horrible façade of hyper-masculinity associated with the genre crumbles with it. What is as important as Ocean's letter is the fact that he has talent to spare and then more, as such "Channel Orange" sees the birth of a new and potentially huge star.
"Channel Orange" is much more than a hip hop album. It fits easily into an R&B framework and within its grooves are jazz, soul and rapping. It also is interspersed with musical fragments and interludes alia Kanye West (who Ocean has recorded with) where ideas literally spill over. The recent review in the Observer accurately describes an album where "beats run on after melodies recede, lonely guitars twang away in the margins, soundscapes overlap. The album, like the mixtape, is broken up with bursts of radio static, fragments of conversation, juddering tape-deck click". And yet at the core of Ocean's work are great songs. The sumptuous R&B ballad "Thinkin bout you" brings a huge burst of summer sun shining brightly into the dour pre Olympic grey of a British summer. The best days of Stevie Wonder are recalled on the pulsating beauty of "Sweet Life" one of the albums standouts where Ocean's vocals are at their best and throughout you can hear traces of other greats such as Al Green, Prince and Marvin Gaye. As with these artists Ocean is not afraid to tackle social issues. "Super Rich Kids" with Earl Sweat has a "Benny and Jets" style pounding backdrop on a song infused with pointed commentary on the class system in California. Equally the self explanatory "Crack Rock" talks of "smoking stones in abandoned homes" and the decent into drug hell. The big centrepiece of the album is the near 10 minute long "Pyramids" where Ocean throws in Tangerine Dream synths, lyrical references to Cheetahs and Cleopatra and a John Mayer guitar solo. It is where he shows his true potential on one of the best songs of 2012. The aforementioned "Bad Religon" is a big hymn like song where Ocean regrets "This unrequited love/ To me it's nothing but a one man cult and cyanide in my styrofoam cup/ I could never make him love me." Other great songs pepper the album not least "Pink Matter" with Andre 3000, the excellent "Monks" and the soulful "Forest Gump".
In a year that has already seen the superb invention of Death Grips much harder Public Enemy orientated "The Money Store" the release of "Channel Orange" represents more of soulful slow burn albeit it is highly commercial in parts. It is difficult not to swept up in the hype surrounding the release of "Channel Orange" with the Daily Telegraph calling it "magical" and the Times describing it as "astonishing". Frankly in terms of sheer invention it doesn't quite match "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" and has a tough competitor in 2012 with the THEESatisfaction's "Awe Naturale" Yet it makes up for this with a set of songs destined to become recognised classics. Frank Ocean has served up a great album in "Channel Orange" and in the last analysis we would do well to worry less about his private life and concentrate more on his mercurial talent. What do think?