While the rest of the world struggle to come to terms with the revelations regarding his sexual orientation, we at Bring The Noise focus on what is most important, and listen to Frank Ocean’s latest release, Channel Orange.
Originally lurking in the shadows of Justin Bieber, Brandy, Beyonce and John Legend while they performed songs which he wrote, Californian born Frank Ocean gained a wider public recognition when he offered his effortless talents and delicious silky smooth voice in Alternative Hip Hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. The release of his first mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra catapulted him into Tyler, The Creator‘s field of vision, leading to the two to colloborate on She, before Kanye West and Jay Z’s No Church In The Wild and Made In America, tracks which Ocean co-wrote as well as featured on.
Despite being a member of a hip hop collective known for its wealth of attitude and aggression, it is unexpected that Ocean’s debut offers a much more stripped down, vulnerable window into his thoughts and feelings. The interlude Start provides a light-hearted and almost detached introduction to the album, sampling sound effects from a games console loading up, before flipping the album on its head, and shifting into Thinkin Bout You’s touching lyrics, delivered emotionally upon slow morphing synthesizers. Sweet Life is a jazz infused ballet of sophisticated pianos, lovingly adorned with a perfect example of Ocean’s seductively charismatic voice, as is Super Rich Kids , where the dreamy words of fellow OFWGKTA member Earl Sweatshirt complement his collaborators vocal meringue-like delicacy.
‘We once had things in common, now the only thing we share is the refrigerator’ are the aching lyrics outlining the theme of frustration simmering beneath Oceans elastic vocals, and the playful use of birds singing, fused with the synth’s glittering behind heartfelt harmonies in Pilot Jones. Pyramids immediately introduces a strong hip hop melody, heavy with metaphors and double meanings. A strobe of electronic stuns as Ocean examines his sexuality, before the song morphs into an 80’s ambience, a flourishing of trumpets, obedient drums, and a slow rhyme from Ocean, reminiscent of 90’s rap. The hopelessness in Lost recites an engulfing and self destructing drug-rich lifestyle in search of the American Dream which allows for Oceans maturity to shine through, whilst quoting opium-heavy movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
The theme of drugs is heavy in this album, however whereas other artists relish their activities as hobbies, this album utilizes them as more of an important metaphor, the addiction in reality being another reality which Ocean transports listeners into, with the links to the use of PlayStation’s and television programmes reinforcing this other realm, where Ocean’s songs tend to lie and blossom. This alternate realm is thus a safe place for Ocean to induce his feelings, to shed the limitations of his secret, and feel comfortable to confront his vulnerabilities. Pink Matter shows the results of Ocean’s transportation, a dreamy, magnificent ribbon of rippling vocals heavily emotional, with one half of Outkast, Andre 3000 pulling you back to earth and lulling you in to a sleepy daze while he recalls how ‘Since you’ve been gone I’ve been having withdrawals’, embodying those drug fuelled side effects as an intense love sickness.
It’d be a crime to overlook Channel Orange for sensational headlines, as this is an album he should be whole-heartedly applauded for.
Standout Tracks: Thinkin Bout You, Pilot Jones, Pyramids, Pink Matter.
For Fans Of: Pharrell, Drake, Neyo, Robin Thicke.
Written by: Charlotte Owen