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Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE

July 31, 2012

Back in my youth they called this a slow jam.  This is a great album if you like simmer and not a hard boil.  For me there is not an obvious breakout single, but that is OK by me as I am an album guy.

I know this guy has gotten lots of hype: member of Odd Future (which means nothing to me), straight/gay, Target controversy etc.  All I know is that a couple of years ago when listening to pwelbs‘ radio show he would play these amazing songs and I would ask “who is this?”  It was Frank Ocean (from his mix tape Nostalgia, Ultra).  So when the hype machine started growling about this release I was all in.

The first thing that came to mind when I listened to this album was D’Angelo’s Voodoo (one of my favorite recent R&B albums – oops that was 2000, but recent compared to Marvin’s Sexual Healing to my old ears).  Voodoo and channel ORANGE both are slow jams, they both have a hip hop point of view and a nod to sophisticated classic R&B.  I hear so many influences:  D’Angelo, Prince (another cat who played the straight/gay mystique early in his career) , Stevie, Marvin, and even a little Joni Mitchell (a huge influence on Prince too).  “Sweet Life” would not sound out-of-place on Joni’s Court and Spark.

The masterpiece of the album is “Pyramids” clocking in at close to 10 minutes.  Musically this a tour de force – defining the Frank Ocean sound:  hip hop beats, soulful vocals, and a seductive narrative.  It starts with the Cleopatra story and bridges into the ultimate male fantasy and nightmare (a first person lament from a guy whose girlfriend is a stripper).  A contemporary twisted R&B symphony – eat your heart out Kanye.

On first listen I thought – epic.  On subsequent listens I kept trying to knock it down (trying to dismiss it as nothing that special), but it this album keeps dusting itself off and standing tall – it gets better with each listen.

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From → Music Reviews

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