sat 25/11/2017

CD: Frank Ocean - Channel Orange | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Frank Ocean - Channel Orange

CD: Frank Ocean - Channel Orange

Superb debut solo album that single-handedly ups R&B's game

None more orange

There's something about Frank Ocean that sets him apart from other male R&B singers. It's not the letter he wrote on his personal blog last week revealing that his first love was a man. It's his songwriting: Ocean sketches out a scene with economy and aplomb, then illustrates with indelible detail.

Ocean's stint with the Odd Future collective, home to several controversial but verbally dextrous rappers, will have sharpened his pencil. But he's clearly a natural storyteller and a keen observer anyway. See how he skewers the lifestyles of "Super Rich Kids" with a single line: "Too many bottles of wine we can't pronounce". Ocean can also be tender - drug dealers have feelings too, says "Lost" - and at times, devastatingly personal. As he wrote this album, did Ocean know that soon he'd come out as bisexual? Lines like "you're so buff and strong" and "you run my mind boy" feel brave either way.

What makes Channel Orange a great debut is Ocean's ability to match narrative with soundtrack. "Sierra Leone" sounds like the lazy sex that sinks its protagonist. "Pilot Jones" is a suitably woozy tune about literal stoned love. "Bad Religion" uses strings and mournful organs as musical grammar for romantic anguish. Throughout, Ocean and his producers offer an inventive but relatively understated take on contemporary R&B - no mean feat for an album whose centrepiece is a 10-minute shape-shifter called "Pyramids". That's the thing about Frank Ocean - his sexuality is noteworthy, but it's his music that's truly remarkable.

Watch the video for "Thinkin' About You"

His sexuality is noteworthy, but it's his music that's truly remarkable

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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