Frank Ocean’s debut album Channel Orange begins by inviting the listener to a nostalgic 1990’s world with a variety of familiar intro-music. Sounds of the original Sony PlayStation, and sounds from an old Street Fighter game feature on the opening track ‘Start’.
This is followed by Frank’s first single ‘Thinkin bout you’, a fairly standard but easy-listening RnB pop song. The record continues with another several RnB love grooves before taking a different turn with ‘Sweet Life’, the skit ‘Not Just Money’ and ‘Super Rich Kids’, all of which deal with class and money. The latter track takes aim at wealthy families whose children spend more time with their maids than they do their parents. Most other tracks on the record are typical pop-y songs, but for the most part they are good pop-y love songs.
Ocean has recently gained attention to his many guest appearances on other artist’s records. He featured with Jay-Z and Kanye West on two songs from their blockbuster ‘Watch the Throne’ last year, as well as on several collaborations with Tyler, the Creator. Surprisingly, Channel Orange features few guest appearances, and is very much a solo effort. Earl Sweatshirt of Odd Future, and Outkast’s Andre 3000 are the only guest rappers to feature on Channel Orange, while John Mayer plays guitar on a minute-long instrumental piece in which Tyler, the Creator receives a producers credit.
The record is unusual in that it is tinged in a variety of different unconventional genres and instruments, such as jazz, funk, and soul and also features many different electric piano, organ and guitar sounds. The most standout track on the album is Pyramids, one of the most talked about tracks as it leaked a few weeks early before its official release. It features an unusual variety of sounds, including video-game synth, techno-trippy psychadelia, complete with a heavily distorted guitar solo. It is like nothing else in RnB or Hip-Hop. A masterpiece of avant-garde experiments mixed with standard pop.
Ocean is impressive. His song-writing is impressively mature for a debut album, his voice has a lot of character and his artist vision is clearly evident on the record.
In a Nutshell: Some very catchy songs on this. Not much new but Channel Orange is still worthy of your time.
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