“Palm trees and pools, the water’s blue, swallow the pill, keeping it surreal…” Sweet Life – Frank Ocean
As I prepared myself for my listening experience of Channel Orange, I couldn’t help but contemplate the artist’s choice to reveal info about his sexuality on his tmblr. Fleeting as the thought was, the poignant underlying notion was about the hype it created and how that may influence the listener. Admittedly, I delayed listening and reviewing this album solely to allow myself the opportunity to be less affected by the hype.
I have a second admission before I give up the skinny on Frank Ocean’s “Channel Orange”… I already was anticipating this project after listening to his work with Odd Future and the Nostalgia mixtape. Hopefully you can relate. Have you ever listened to an album in the dark or your eyes closed and immediately you are immersed into imagery? This imagery however, is not abstract; it is tangible, heartfelt, soul stirring and thought provoking. The double entendre and use of alliterations in a song like “Super Rich Kids” or the metaphors in “Pyramid” or “Sierra Leone” is a testimony to deft writing and poetry used to breathe three dimensions into the aural experience in each song throughout the album. Who needs videos when your imagination is inspired by the music and the lyrics delivered? Ocean employs literary devices throughout the album that certainly challenges the listener and dare I say, raises one’s IQ (See “Pink Matter” for example). Speaking of “Pink Matter”, the cameo by Andre 3000 took the song to another level. Whereas most albums tell a story with the collective of songs, each song on Channel Orange is a story within itself. I can go on pointing out the intricate ways in which Mr. Ocean challenges the listener to enter this esoteric realm created by the well-crafted album but you should see for yourself.
My only personal peeve is the interludes. I never really liked interludes unless it enhances flow of the album. However, even the interludes in Channel Orange force you to open your mind to varied issues that are glossed over. Not only is the album aurally pleasing, it is social commentary and honesty wrapped in poetry. Honestly, I found it rather difficult to find any cons about this album, be it musically or lyrically and I challenge you to do the same. Rather than spoil the adventure that is Channel Orange, how about I summarily end by saying that Frank Ocean has certainly made an honest impact on R&B. This album will indeed go over your head if you aren’t able to elevate your mental past dope beats and simple quips and punch lines. Territory once monopolized and highlighted by real hip-hop, is now in the bosom of R&B/Soul thanks to artist like Frank Ocean. Since the proof is in the pudding, taste “Sweet Life” and “Pyramids” from Frank’s Soundcloud: