Frank Ocean is a solo singer songwriter and a member of OFWGKTA. His debut studio album channel ORANGE features the likes of Tyler, the creator, Andre 3000 and John Mayer. Admittedly I’d not heard his music until last week. My brother was banging on about him at a party. In describing his sound, he mentioned Stevie Wonder and Pharrell Williams. Streaming the album the next day, I found the Stevie Wonder reference was evident from the start. His vocal melodies and use of Rhodes style keys are very reminiscent of the Innervisions sound.
The album starts with a short 46 second intro but the first proper track, Thinkin’ Bout You, is a modern soul classic with 808 style drums and lush ambient synth tones. Something here reminds me of London electro artist, Burial, but I can’t put my finger on what.
channel ORANGE has a largely relaxed vibe, only reaching its first up beat song at track nine. Surprisingly Frank manages to keep up the pace with 10 minute epic, Pyramids, a structurally experimental song that starts with trippy reversed drums and soon flows into dreamy 80’s synth lines complete with jazz fusion guitars. As I realised the song was drawing to a close, I very nearly skipped back and listened again as I didn’t want it to end. I’m not strictly into contemporary R&B so by this point I was pleasantly surprised.
There is something of a juxtapose with channel ORANGE. Frank’s lyrics have a nice twist to them. He sings about drugs and money with a satirical style all of his own. The track ‘Super Rich Kids’ is a dig at America’s well to do society. Lines like “Too many joy rides in daddy’s Jaguar” and “My silver spoon has fed me good” are sung with tongue thrust firmly in cheek. ‘Pilot Jones’ tells the tale of a drug addled lady friend who’s intoxication is obviously frowned upon rather than glamourised.
Stand out tracks, for me, are:
Super rich kids
All in all it’s a great record with style and humility. Something often lacking in modern pop music.
Frank comes across intelligent and well grounded on this album. Let’s hope fame doesn’t change him.
Image disclaimer: I’m happy to give credit where credit is due. email me Kerry [at] artisanrecords .co.uk