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I’ve never been the type to sit back and listen to R&B, but I wanted to give Frank Ocean’s debut LP a chance, because I am quite intrigued by his juxtaposing role in Odd Future. He is the soft and sentimental balance to the aggressive rap styling that the rest of the Wolf Gang is known for.
Channel ORANGE is the diary of Frank Ocean as much as it is a musical release. Every song sounds as if Ocean is letting his emotions speak out loud and makes for some great easy listening. Rather than hooking you in with catchy beats or infectious sing-a-longs, channel ORANGE is an album that floats comfortably through the air around you so much so that you can feel Ocean’s honest sentiment of feeling alone.
The album employs the use of odd vocal samples such as TV’s, video game sound effects, and at the intro to Pilot Jones, a voice saying that “the only thing we share now is the refrigerator.” While in some points it empowers the emotional voice in the album, at certain points, it cuts through the flow of the album in an unnecessarily interrupting manner.
Pyramids, despite its slow build in well constructed and imaginative vocals, stands out as the most produced and probably most commercial track on the album. This is the first instant where you want to groove along rather than sit back and wallow in the sentiment. If this album were a film chronicling the unrequited love and hardships of Frank Ocean, this would be the “take to the streets” dance scene in the rain.
I’m not really sure how to take this album’s brutal and genuine honest storytelling, as most of the R&B I’m exposed to lacks any real creativity or depth to it (unless ‘I only miss you when I’m breathing’ really is the height of intellectual quality modern education has brought us to).
Channel ORANGE goes on for a bit longer than an album with such little variety in track styling should, but I wouldn’t dismiss it for that reason. In fact, I wouldn’t dismiss it at all. Frank Ocean takes R&B down a road that doesn’t involve David Guetta, Calvin Harris or Avicci style production, but explores the true music potential behind a genre that mostly falls on commercially safe sound.
As someone that doesn’t know R&B and generally couldn’t care less about what is happening in that whole area of the music world, Frank Ocean is someone that you should give a fair listen to, and channel ORANGE is the album to do it on. He has done a number of works with OFWGKTA as well as released his mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra, but the honest voice behind unconventional beats on this album is well worth lending an ear to.