By Charles Louis Dominguez ’14
Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
8.5 out of 10
The hip-hop world was dealt a much-needed surprise this summer when Odd Future’s resident crooner, Frank Ocean, announced his first love was a man.
This is certainly a brave action in a genre that has traditionally been dominated by feelings of male chauvinism, homophobia and an extreme admiration for all things machismo.
Ocean’s latest album, “Channel Orange,” received an early iTunes release just days after this story broke.
Riding off the buzz of his recent announcement, “Channel Orange” has become one of the most talked-about releases of this year, reaching its peak at No. 2 on the Billboard top 200.
“Channel Orange” is a relentless tribute to the music Ocean is so clearly inspired by that still manages to provide a new sound for the modern R&B genre.
Riddled with the subtleties that made his previous effort, “NostalgiaULTRA,” so enjoyable, “Channel Orange” explores new ground, with Ocean touching on a variety of genres, sounds and emotions.
While tracks like “Thinkin’ Bout You” and “Pilot Jones” find Frank Ocean in his usual, soulful form, the album is haunted by a more experimental sound with songs like the 10-minute epic “Pyramids.”
Songs off of “Channel Orange” feel intricately composed, giving the listener the opportunity to dissect each layer of instrumentation.
The diversity of topics touched upon by “Channel Orange” keeps the album interesting and allows for Ocean’s songwriting to take center-stage.
While “Golden Girl,” a CD exclusive, is a feel-good song that projects the vibes of a lazy, romanticized summer, songs like “Super Rich Kids” tackle the issues of loss, addiction and excess.
Even more variety is added to the album by its colorful guest spots.
With tracks featuring Odd Future comrade Earl Sweatshirt, John Mayer, Andre 3000 and production assistance from N*E*R*D’s Pharrel, Frank Ocean has very clearly established himself as a force in modern R&B.
Although his latest release seems to improve upon last year’s “NostalgiaULTRA” in every conceivable way, it comes off less fun to listen to.
While thematically it’s certainly a more consistent album, I can’t help but miss the fun, playful energy that made “NostalgiaULTRA” such a gem.
“Channel Orange” operates better as a whole, packaged product, but ends up offering fewer tracks that are worth returning to outside of a full-listen.
Ocean is an evidently talented songsmith, having carefully crafted an album that manages to keep the listener tapping their foot and excited for the next track.
And really, what more can you ask for out of a summer album?