Frank Ocean‘s Channel Orange is a nightmare of an album to review, not because it’s a bad piece of work or even because of the circumstances that surrounded its release (read: Frank Ocean broke the ice about his still unclear sexuality just days before the album’s release with a painful recounting of his failed relationship with a man — a huge no-no in the heteronormative R&B world). Instead, the difficulty of reviewing Channel Orange lies in the fact that its such an intimate experience that it probably shouldn’t be dissected out of respect for Ocean. That emotional purity and the special way that Ocean seems to deliver it make Channel Orange an engaging and heartwarming listen from start to finish. He may be bisexual, but his pains and murmurs of unrequited love ring true to a much wider audience (it’s no wonder that he found success early on in his career writing songs for Beyoncé).
Interestingly enough, what makes Frank Ocean so particularly endearing may or may not even be the music he manages to make; his wit, charisma, and uncharacteristic nonchalance for someone with so much pain inside him carry him more than far enough. Perhaps even more interesting though, is that this doesn’t even matter in the grander scheme that is Channel Orange. From the bittersweet reminiscing of “Thinkin Bout You” to the outpour of regret and contemplation on “Bad Religion” to the ten-minute magnum opus that is “Pyramids”, Ocean spins a tale of desperation and heartbreak so real and so personal that we can discover exactly who Frank Ocean is, regardless of what we may or may not have heard about him. “This unrequited love, to me it’s nothing but a one-man cult and cyanide in my styrofoam cup. I could never make him love me,” he explains to a non-suspecting taxi-driver on “Bad Religion” — and suddenly, we know he has some secrets about his sexuality. On “Pink Matter”, he questions, “What do you think my brain is made for? Is it just a container for the mind?” — and we feel both his mind and brain at work. When Ocean’s flawless falsetto accentuates the hook on “Thinkin Bout You” and he croons, “Or do you not think so far ahead? Cause I’ve been thinking ’bout forever,” we feel Ocean’s nostalgia for the past he loved and the future that never was, all in the present tense. Over the course of the album’s intentionally sparse 17 songs, we discover much about Ocean while at the same time, he encourages us to discover more about ourselves as he carefully pieces each vignette together and invites us to reflect alongside him.
Ocean is far from what you would normally expect from an R&B star, but he does represent everything that you’d hope to find in one. That, perhaps, is much more important.
After showing his rapping self for a capricious 30 seconds on Hit-Boy‘s “Old School Caddy”, the Kid Cudi of old made his full reappearance late last night on “Just What I Am”, the first leak from his forthcoming Indicud album. Alongside him is another new (but not really) face: King Chip, the artist formerly known as Chip Tha Ripper and Cudi’s longtime collaborator. Both artists kill it on some Cudder self-production, something he seems to be getting into recently for Indicud, which he has described as his version of Dr. Dre‘s The Chronic 2001.
With Rock the Bells on its way (we’ll be there!), the G.O.O.D. Music collaboration record looming, and Indicud being worked on, it’s going to be a pretty busy year for Cudder.. so turn the music up and vibe with the MP3 directly below.
You can download “Old School Caddy” for free below, courtesy of Hit-Boy himself. What do you think? Can Hit-Boy follow in his mentor Kanye‘s shoes or should he just stick to production? On a side note, how about Cudi’s return to rap?
Today, I’m also very glad to announce a special giveaway between Lost In The Sound and Little, Brown and Company. To support Elton and his organization, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, we are giving away three copies of the new book to readers from either the US or Canada (sorry, no PO boxes!).
We’ll be doing a random drawing in two weeks (July 31, 2012) to decide on three winners who will receive one copy each. How do you enter?
You can read more about the book below via press release.
For the first time ever Elton John tells his own intensely personal story. Filled with exclusive details about his relationships with famous friends like Elizabeth Taylor, Freddie Mercury and Princess Diana, LOVE IS THE CURE (Little, Brown and Company/July 17, 2012/ISBN: ) is a truly revelatory look at one of the world’s most beloved singers and songwriters. LOVE IS THE CURE is a deeply personal account of his life during the era of AIDS and an inspiring look at what we must do to bring the epidemic to an end.
In the 1980s, Elton John saw friend after friend, loved one after loved one, perish needlessly from AIDS. In the midst of the plague he befriended Ryan White, a young Indiana boy ostracized by his town and his school because of the HIV infection he had contracted from a blood transfusion. Ryan’s inspiring life and devastating death led Elton to two realizations: His own life was a mess. And he had to do something to help stop the AIDS crisis.
Since then, Elton has dedicated himself to overcoming the stigma of AIDS and finding a cure. For the past 20 years he has done this through the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which has raised and donated $275 million to-date to fighting the disease worldwide. With powerful conviction and emotional force, Elton conveys the personal toll AIDS has taken on his life, and his infinite determination to stop its spread.
Elton John says, “This is a disease that must be cured not by a miraculous vaccine, but by changing hearts and minds, and through a collective effort to break down social barriers and to build bridges of compassion. Why are we not doing more? This is a question I have thought deeply about, and wish to answer-and help to change-by writing this book.” Sir Elton John’s first book is a deeply personal account of his life during the era of AIDS and an inspiring look at what we must do to bring the epidemic to an end.
The sale of Love Is the Cure will benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF), founded in 1992, has raised $275 million to fight the AIDS epidemic and help those affected by it. EJAF has supported hundreds of projects focusing on marginalized, stigmatized, and at-risk populations in 55 countries. EJAF is one of the largest AIDS grant-making organizations in the world, and the largest in the UK.
“‘Circles Around The Sun’ is the legend of our friend Larry Perry, who passed away this past year. In the early 1960s the space race had captured America. Looking to outdo the Soviets without putting their necks on the line, NASA, in an unprecedented, controversial move, took a very disabled young man away from his family to ready him for space flight. Both the USSR and USA had sent dogs and chimps into space, but the USA wanted more. Larry cannot walk or speak but was in perfect health and, more importantly, in the eyes of the government, expendable. Unbeknownst to them, from a very young age, Larry had always been an adrenaline junkie and the scientists and government officials were actually fulfilling the biggest adventure he could ever dream – to be launched into space. To everyone’s surprise, Larry returns from space triumphant and smiling.” – Chad