Frank Ocean is not stupid. Controversy sells, and his revelation on twitter not too long ago didn’t just happen to coincide with the release of his debut album. But he did not seek to create an overly sexually product in the wake of his controversial move. The first thing that I noticed as a whole upon listening to Channel Orange was the overall vibe. I couldn’t help but feel that I was transported somewhere else when listening to the eerie sadness of “Bad Religion.” In fact, the entire album reminds me of some sort of otherworldly, alien Hollywood. I was surprised that he began the album with the overplayed “Thinkin Bout You,” but I still listened to the song the whole way through. The falsetto is irresistible and the lyrics are both imaginative and easy to identify with.
Channel Orange is another modern project that supports the irrelevance of the term genre. Throughout, one can hear traces of neo-soul, R&B, pop, funk, acoustic rock… I could go on. I was particularly amazed by the sound of “Crack Rock.” Crashing, clamoring cymbals combined with a simplistic, mourning harp and a wailing organ combined to create a vibe that was both upbeat and mournful, both sinful and church-like. I’ll have the album on repeat for a while, but might have to replay this one by itself for a little while. Then there's the funky, rock-influenced, soulful vibe given off by "Monks." Another example of diverse musical elements combining to create a truly unique listen.
While Frank’s vocal abilities are clearly on display throughout this project, I think that I am even more overwhelmed by his songwriting capacity. The ten-minute listening experience "Pyramids" brings to mind the ancient story of Cleopatra in a series of interconnected songs centering around romance and betrayal. Songs suchaas Pilot Jones and Sweet Life exceed the typical fantasy-like songs of our generation, showing the ups and downs of exceptional lives. Interesting concepts, creative execution, and bold statements abound.
The Andre 3000 feature in “Pink Matter” was perfectly executed, as the ghostlike Outkast member floated in and out of the eerie instrumental to deliver a poignant verse before you even truly realized he was speaking. I had to rewind several times to grasp the beauty of this one. Odd Future’s own Earl Sweatshirt provided the only other guest verse by an emcee on the album in “Super Rich Kids,” displaying his ability to produce dense, potent lyricism while maintaining the subject matter of the song. Frank casually incorporated two of the most sought-after artists in the hip-hop genre in his album without a hitch.
I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss what will likely be the most culturally influential song from this entire production. “Bad Religion” is a contrast to the otherworldliness of the majority of Channel Orange. It might be as close as we get to a Frank Ocean autobiography. There likely will be many clamoring to label Frank as a basher of the religion of Islam after his line, “he said Allahu Akbar, I told him don’t curse me.” Literally translated, this phrase means “Allah is Greater.” When Frank says “don’t curse me,” he isn’t bashing Islam or any religion for that matter. Instead, what he is seeking to convey that he doesn’t need saving- he is tormented by parts of his past, but doesn’t feel that his lifestyle is a sin. What’s your interpretation? I won’t delve into each track individually beyond the concepts already mentioned, because this is one of the albums that everyone needs to hear for themselves. Everyone. There’s a lot to be grasped within this production, and I’m sure we’ll all grab something different. Just be sure to tune in.