Before the release of his debut album, Frank Ocean had sprinkled audio gems over the Internet for fans and critics. Whether it be his contributions to the fan-favourite ‘The OF Tape 2’ or his solo mixtape ‘Nostalgia, ULTRA’, Frank’s debut album ‘Channel ORANGE’ is a masterpiece. Released just over 5 years ago, Franks’ storytelling of being in love with another man, drug addiction, fame and depression is played cinematic form throughout.
From the computerized “Start” leading into “Thinkin Bout You”, Frank begins the album with a mellow start, describing a relationship that found himself obsessed with a potential lover. As the album continues, short yet dense R&B records exploring Frank’s sexuality through revealing lyrics and glorious instrumentals provided by Frank himself, Pharrell, Tyler, The Creator, John Mayer and an incredible guitar solo, courtesy of the never-disappointing André 3000.
While there are immediate standouts, “Super Rich Kids” featuring a nocturnal but fitting verse contrast on the record by Earl Sweatshirt, a theatrical instrumental on “Pilot Jones” that sees Frank unloading his feelings of someone who he helped guide through rough times. As well as the impeccable and amazing “Pyramids” laced with thunderous claps, drug-enhanced keys, ominous drums and a haunting choir sample, perfectly looped behind Franks’ pained lyrics. While both parts of the song are of *amazing*, the second half is my preferred for the cloudy instrumental with gritty synths, jazzy but gloomy horns added throughout.
In my honest opinion, there’s not a single moment on the album that is bland or left to blunt. Even on the Pop-esque, “Lost”, Frank incorporates live instruments, a doomed voice of a woman looking for happiness yet weighed down by “cooking dope”. As well as on closing tracks and unmissable too anyone who listens to the album, “Pink Matter” and “Forrest Gump” both show sides of Frank they portray a very intimate but relatively hurt and someone who is pouring countless amounts of emotion through every line.
To conclude, ‘Channel ORANGE’ is a very important album too myself, but also modern R&B and how it shifted over the period that Frank’s follow-up album impacted the release of an album, context of lyrics in a still very judging community of sexuality and most importantly, Frank’s ability as a songwriter, vocalist, musician and as a body of work.