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.
Channel Orange Tracklisting:
02 Thinkin Bout You
04 Sierra Leone
05 Sweet Life
06 Not Just Money
07 Super Rich Kids [ft. Earl Sweatshirt]
08 Pilot Jones
09 Crack Rock
12 White [ft. John Mayer]
14 Bad Religion
15 Pink Matter [ft. André 3000]
16 Forrest Gump
Perhaps what is even more exciting is the fact that Earl made his live debut tonight at Manhattan Center’s Hammerstein Ballroom. With the entire Odd Future crew by his side, Earl performed key cuts from his discography, including ”Orange Juice”, “Assmilk”, and “Kill”.
Below, you can watch the Rosenberg interview, as well as an impromptu music video for OF Tape Vol. 2‘s crew cut “Oldie” that was filmed by Lance Bangs at a photoshoot with Terry Richardson.
It’s not the full-fledged follow up to Rolling Papers, but yesterday we got a brand new free mixtape from Odd Future‘s stoner-rap specialist Domo Genesis. His latest project, Under The Influence, is a fourteen track mixtape featuring Domo rapping over some of his favorite industry beats, including Kanye West‘s “We Major”. The whole affair sounds quite out of place in the rest of the OF catalog, firmly cementing Domo’s place as the explosive collective’s most laid back member.
Odd Future’s de-facto leader Tyler, the Creator makes an appearance as Ace on “Whole City Behind Us”. While Under The Influence, isn’t quite as polished as Tyler’s Bastard mixtape or Earl Sweatshirt‘s EARL, it’s still a great piece of work. You can download the entire mixtape below. A few choice cuts are also included below as previews.
Complex Magazine believes they have located the long lost OFWGKTA member Earl Sweatshirt at an academy in Samoa. Earl, arguably one of the best rappers in the Los Angeles rap group, was reportedly sent there by his mother because “she didn’t like his ‘disrespectful’ music”. You can download Earl Sweatshirt’s debut album, EARL, for free on the group’s Tumblr. Free Earl!