I wasn’t planning on reviewing the Odd Future crooner and Def Jam artist Frank Ocean’s new album, channel ORANGE, until next week. You know, when it was supposed to come out? Maybe because of the recent wave of support he is getting due to his incredibly personal blog post is why his major label debut is now available for us the consumer to digest. Maybe he just wanted it out there for us to enjoy. Whatever the actual reason for this early release, I could not be happier that the album is in my possession. After listening to his first album/mixtape, the self-released nostalgia, ULTRA a year ago, this project has been on my personal musical radar (SIDE NOTE: If you don’t have nostalgia Ultra yet, do yourself a favor and get it). Now, ORANGE sits and plays on constant loop – and is consistently enjoyable from beginning to end.
The album starts with the lead single, “Thinkin Bout You,” a universal love song that shows off Ocean’s incredible range that just sends chills with every listen. “Sweet Life” talks about being a recluse with all of the money in the world, asking “Why see the world when you can see the beach.” “Pyramids” is a nine minute (yes…nine minutes) jam that that contains some incredibly catchy production that could easily find itself slithering through a club scene. My favorite song here is “Bad Religion,” an under three minute confessional between Ocean and a cab driver, giving an incredibly intimate look into his life and love.
Though the production is solid across the board, the biggest selling point is Ocean himself. His mono-tenor voice creates a memorable listening experience that I can assume will only get better with age. And those moments throughout ORANGE where he goes into his falsetto can just melt the hearts of any listener. He does have moments where he goes into his rap accent – most notably “Super Rich Kids” – which is nice for diversity sake, but every time he croons just makes ORANGE that much more dynamic. His accent makes him the most unique and memorable R&B artist out there right now, which should explain his success being featured in other artist’s work. Be expecting to hear his voice so much more in the future.
As much as I could praise Ocean, there are some quips I have to point out. There are three features on the album, none of which really hit me like I think they were supposed to. Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt puts down a rather short verse on “Super Rich Kids,” and Outkast’s Andre 3000 doesn’t (and hasn’t in a while) hit the bar he has set up for himself when it comes to being featured on tracks. Lastly, there’s John Mayer, who does a rendition of “White” which was previously released on The OF Tape Vol.2 earlier this year. It’s not awful, but then again, it’s basically filler.
channel ORANGE is now my soundtrack to my summer. The songs are intimate, raw, and incredibly enjoyable. The album evokes a lot of different emotions throughout – from love and loneliness, Ocean shows moments of weakness and strength with whatever feelings that he is singing about. His voice remains one of the most distinctive and unwavering voices in the R&B game today, as every track showcases his giant range and melodic diversity. channel ORANGE is yet another solid outing for Ocean, matching if not surpassing nostalgia, ULTRA. ORANGE is a universal album for all to enjoy, and if your personal intolerance towards Ocean is preventing you from even touching this, go ahead and skip it. You just won’t hear anything like this all year.
Final Grade: A-
Go Download: “Bad Religion”