After penning for established hitmakers and building a name for himself and a member of Odd Future, Frank Ocean decided to continue his ascent by releasing a sophomore album shaped according to his own personality and aspirations. Channel Orange cements the buzz he stirred with Nostalgia, ULTRA in early 2011.
The album opens with “Thinkin Bout You,” which has been available online for about a year, but which didn’t lost its luster at all. “Fertilizer,” a touching interlude follows it at the thin line between joke and serious talk.
In a recent New York Times interview, Ocean talked about his songwriting as “an extension of [his] talk therapy” so, the next tracks seem to be a sort of approach for everything that went wrong or good in his life, but an approach that stirs compassion and sympathy. Even if you don’t like the lyrics or the beats, you cannot hate Ocean as he is irremediably nice. It’s like preachiness doesn’t fit his name and even when he sings about pain, he does it naturally, as he does in “Bad Religion“.
Channel Orange goes on like an endless river of confessions instead of songs, like a time machine that spans time and distance for the same great scope. On “Pyramids”, the listener starts on a journey from Ancient Egypt to the modern Las Vegas, while on “Black Beverly Hills” he can explore the Ladera Heights back to the temples of India.
It’s a 55-minutes album that doesn’t stand for Ocean alone; it includes other heavy names, such as Pharrell or Sweatshirt. Pharrell Williams joined forces with Ocean to co-write and co-produce the bubbling keys and bass of “Sweet Life”, a song about how money makes living well possible, but not certain. Odd Future buzz baby Earl Sweatshirt plays his part on the soulful “Super Rich Kids,” which reveals the loneliness, boredom and inner emptiness that can come with having extremely rich but absentee parents.
Moreover, Ocean wanted to prove that he has pipes, and he did it on “Pilot Jones”, “Pink Matter” and the funky “Monks”. Some critics say that after you have listen to these three songs, you feel like you have had too many ice cream. Others disagree, sustaining that they are just an appetizer for what comes next. “Crack Rock” highlights the dispute. Lyrics with narrative components about drug addiction make the song an intimate confession, a direct address of a societal problem that Ocean has put out to date. Though not as nice and fun as “Sweet Life” or “Lost“, this song is a solid piece of music that gets to you no matter what. It’s a reminder of his great literary abilities. “Forrest Gump” is a haunting confession of Ocean’s struggle with himself. It’s a song about the love for a man, about the strains of society and staying true to yourself.
Overall, Channel Orange is an album of rare purity and rare modesty in a time when songs are dominated by luxurious and yet frivolous lyrics. It’s an album filled with ingenuity and so hard to shake, an album which says plenty about Frank Ocean’s talent and his future career and which will stand the proof of time.
Released July 10, 2012
Recorded 2011-12 East West Studio, Henson Recording Studios, Record Plant (Hollywood, California), Westlake Recording Studios, Studio for the Talented & Gifted (Los Angeles, California), San Ysidro (Beverly Hills, California), Manhattan Sound Recording (New York, New York)
Genre R&B, neo soul
Label Def Jam
Producer Frank Ocean, Malay, Om’mas Keith, Pharrell