by Latecia Shantrea
Album: Channel Orange
Artist: Frank Ocean
Label: Def Jam
Frank Ocean makes powerful music. Simply said, Channel Orange is everything it’s been hyped up to be and more. The content of the songs grabbed me almost as soon as the first strings of ‘Thinkin’ Bout you”, so I settled into the experience and held on for the ride. What a ride it was – not a rollercoaster of emotion, though I did feel a lot. It was more like a slow Sunday drive to the beach with the windows down. Ocean’s lethargic approach as a songwriter lulls the listener into a cocoon of comfort, only to break that reverie with the entrance of drums as the drive begins. Music is the road you’re traveling down; love is the beach you end up on and Ocean is that good friend you take on the drive with you. He’s your navigator, eyes and bladder that reminds you to stop for restroom breaks. Like any good navigator, he sits quietly as you traverse the road and only interrupts if he needs to change the song or has a piercing question. Channel Orange is an intimate experience that you’ll always remember.
In an age where sex is talked about in abundance with reckless abandon, Ocean throws caution to the wind and truly dives in talking about sex in the form of making love, but it’s more than that and so is this album. The standout tracks are “Sweet Life” the Pharrell Williams co-produced track that slays about four songs in, setting the tone, while ‘Pyramids’ (a full 9:53) and Ocean’s first single sounds even better within the context of the album. These are songs we’ve all heard in the last few months, but as Ocean sings on Sweet Life “the best song wasn’t a single, but you weren’t either”. The best songs on the album are the ones he kept for its premier. “Super Rich Kids” featuring Earl Sweatshirt and “Pink Matter” featuring Andre 3000 are some of the best feature combinations in recent years… but BAD RELIGION… Bad Religion is baaaad in a good way. Emotionally raw, open and honest- Bad Religion is a glimpse into the psyche of someone who’s been in love and did not have that love returned. We now know that song is about Ocean’s own experience, and the knowledge of that adds to the power of the song. It’s a song that makes you think and feel and cry and then just sit there overwhelmed with the beautifully true story he tells.
All and all, Channel Orange is a masterpiece of an album heavy with socially conscious songs and a potential to change musical concepts in the same way Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” did in 1971. I just hope Hip hop is ready.
Download the album on iTunes today: Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
Notable tracks: Crack Rock is a song about social injustice and the crack epidemic that has riddled African American homes since the 80’s.