The way we view artists has changed so drastically over the years. Just when I thought I could place every single one in a category, along comes the enigmatic Frank Ocean of Odd Future.
Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All is that deadly team of shockingly young rap magicians. They have orchestrated creation of certain media that they knew people would not only love, but so much so, that we can’t help but applaud their design meant to trap us.
Of a group consisting of mainly rappers (Tyler the Creator at its helm), Frank Ocean specializes in R&B, which has led to album-quality mixtapes, collaborations with huge players in the music game (Watch the Throne anyone?), and now his debut album, channel ORANGE.
I’ve had this album for weeks, but the hardest thing about it was picking out what I loved most. The album was primarily produced by James Ho, but also has contributions by Pharrell (on Sweet Life, although I thought Monks was his at first), and James Fauntleroy II.
Also of course, Ocean made headlines when he announced that he is in fact bisexual, and that his first love was with a man. A fact he is proud of, and that I fully support. Good call on doing it during the heat of the Anderson Cooper “surprise”.
The iTunes release of the album came first, a week ahead of the rest of the formats, and was met with instant success, as its most purchased album (of that week I believe). Now, we are a week after its full-format release. But let’s get into the favorites, yeah?
Two things I love most about Frank Ocean, is his ability to come up with some the catchiest damn choruses ever heard, and also his power of turning anything vulgar (I use that term very loosely) into something only his grasp of modern R&B filter out. Track eleven, Lost is a perfect example. Starting with the line “Double D, big full breasts on my baby”, he can make the slightest comment or statement into R&B gold. May not be a big deal to most, but it’s interesting the way Ocean tackles ordinary subject matter. Even the way I picked this song apart felt easier than usual, but the path of least resistance was applied well here.
Of course I have to talk about the masterpiece that is Pyramids. The thirteenth track, it weighs in just seconds under ten minutes, and follows not only two different beats-per-minute, but also two different story points in the life of a young pimp. The first half takes place in the mind of the dreaming pimp, his Queen Cleopatra having been recently kidnapped. After setting the cheetahs on the loose, and alerting the kingdom and the mighty legions of Pharaoh Ocean, she is eventually discovered dead.
After a light interlude, the beat slows down, and the pimp awakens to sunlight in the window, and watches his bottom bitch get ready. The description is beautiful, despite the taboo situation, and the approach Ocean took on this song was genius. Furthermore, the beat is perfect for the strip club she’s working at. I have a feeling that “She’s working at the Pyramid tonight” will be one of the most memorable lyrics of the year.
Overall however, and after much thought and inner turmoil, I found my favorite song to be the organ ballad, Bad Religion. Near the tail end of the album, the fourteenth track is just want I wanted from an R&B artist.
I wanted something that showcased the full range of the singer, while also telling a story that is so easy to visualize, yet fairly complex in its lyric overtones. This song perfectly delivered. The organs in the intro build up to the handclaps and bigger sound, and drop of at the perfect end at the end of the song. Lyrically, I found a lot of things relatable to me, and I think a great majority will feel that way too.
This was a hard album to pick favorites on! Guitars of John Mayer on White (if you got the OFWGKTA Vol. 2 mixtape, you know the lyrics to this instrumental), the explosive verse and delivery of Andre 3000 (the master himself), right down to the little nuances of things like playing the original Playstation startup theme.
Frank Ocean knows what he’s doing, and at this point, not only may he be the best in his class, but damn near close to all classes period for this year. As of now, channel ORANGE has pushed its way to my album of the year slot.
Go get it, before I keep typing.
Until next time my friends,