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I remember hearing Frank Ocean's voice last year on the radio with a track called "swim good" off his mixtape Nostalgia. At first it kind of washed over my head, but the more and more it played it became catchy and I was in love with his soulful voice. Another song off his mixtape "Novocane" is an absolute favourite of mine and I used to listen to it on repeat having a shower or getting ready to go out as his voice is so smooth and although his song topics are a bit mish mash (if that's a terminology!)
So this year when he decided to release his debut album - Channel Orange - I decided it was a must buy and for £7.50 into my amazon wishlist (and later basket!) it went!
Frank Ocean is part of the OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All) an American alternative hip hop collective from Los Angeles, California. The collective is led by rapper/producer Tyler, The Creator, and Frank Ocean is one of their other big names. As a singer song writer, the tracks are all written by himself and contains a lot of melodies with electronic keyboards to create sounds of electro-funk, pop-soul, jazz-funk, and psychedelic music which blend to make an eclectic album but the sensuous undertones of his voice help it blend into one. It is hard to pin a genre on Frank Ocean's music as it isn't quite R&B but more a blend of soul, hip hop, electro and jazz. A strange combination but he works it well!
The cover case is bright orange and Ocean titled the album as a reference to the neurological phenomenon as the colour he perceived during the summer he first fell in love. The album cover itself comes in bright orange cardboard with one side with the CD in and the other side has a booklet which contains the song lyrics for those who want to sing along!
The track list for this album is:
2. Thinkin Bout You
4. Sierra Leone
5. Sweet Life
6. Not Just Money
7. Super Rich Kids (featuring Earl Sweatshirt)
8. Pilot Jones
9. Crack Rock
12. White (featuring John Mayer)
14. Bad Religion
15. Pink Matter (featuring André 3000)
16. Forrest Gump
17. End/Golden Girl
My absolute favourite track on this album is "Thinkin About You" which had some controversy brought behind it as Ocean penned a letter which he posted on Tumblr in which he discusses his past experience during a summer when he found himself falling in love for the first time and it was with a man. In the stigmatic genre of hip hop/R&B/soul (whichever category should he be narrowly placed in) this is of course a topic which isn't sung about with open arms so to speak. Listening to the song he says lyrics such as "Do you think about me still? Do you not think so far ahead?? 'Coz I been thinking bout forever....No I don't like you I just thought you were cool enough to kick it..." I honestly could listen to this song all day, and while it may not have any personal reflection on my situation it is so filled with emotion I can almost feel Frank Ocean's heart pouring out over my car radio! He performed this song at the VMA's in LA this summer and it was so moving to see him sing his heart out live, I am hoping he comes to the UK (again!) where I can appreciate his art in a small intimate gig.
Another great song on this album which I enjoy is Pyramids, which at almost 10 minutes long is the LONGEST track on the entire album (in fact on any album of any artist I own!) Whenever the track begins I can't keep still and have to sway or bounce in my chair lol! It begins in an up tempo track, the lyrics being an array of words referring to Cleopatra and the Pyramids and the moody tune finds Ocean oohing over ethereal swirls and pulses while cooing about "working at the pyramid" and finding "my Black queen Cleopatra". The song is almost a story and is more uptempo and R&B sounding for the first half then drifts off into an extremely slow and sensual rhythm detailing Cleopatra as a prostitute and here Ocean is her pimp but through years of working together, he eventually falls in love with her. It really sounds like a song with a lot of loose screws but yet it is is so enthralling I find myself listening to it over and over again!
Oddly enough I found there to be a lot of skit's and short snappy songs on this album, which were quite sporadic and didn't seem to flow with the album but in all honesty not much flows! It jumps around as I think it is Frank Ocean's intention not to be too samey in the sense of having variety and not too much similarities all through his tracks!
A lot of the other songs on this album are brilliant such as Pink Matter which features Andre 3000 of Outkast who I am a big fan of. Their voices are really compatible and the duo make a formidable team and bring a slow song of "pleasure" to my ears. Frank hit's some high notes I didn't know he had in him and he almost makes me a bit gutted if he is gay as he's sooo sweet!
Overall I am a big fan of his debut album and I will be impressed to see what he can bring out to rival this in the future. This album is for someone who likes a lot of slow, sensual songs filled with emotion. Although not a tear jerker (not for me anyway!) you can hear Frank's heart almost beating as he says each line and I just want to find him and give him a hug! He is an enigmatic character who doesn't particularly do interviews etc so he is somewhat of a mystery and I think this reflects in his album. As a quiet and perhaps misunderstood artist his true sexuality is not actually known (ie. is he bisexual, gay, etc) and so I think channelled through this album are feelings of confusion and love and lust which can be heard and I really appreciate his music and talent.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Thinking About You
4 Sierra Leone
5 Sweet Life
6 Not Just Money
7 Super Rich Kids (Feat. Earl Sweatshirt)
8 Pilot Jones
9 Crack Rock
12 White (Feat. John Mayer)
14 Bad Religion
15 Pink Matter (Feat. Andre 3000)
16 Forrest Gump