Title: Channel Orange
Artist: Frank Ocean
Label: Def Jam Recordings
Formats: CD, LP, MP3
Release date: July 10, 2012
Tons of bloggers have published a bevy of deep, theoretical essays on Frank Ocean’s major label debut Channel Orange that analyze its homoerotic overtones and subtexts, its sense of wanderlust, the disjointed nature of social ascension that accompanies the rise to fame, and a number of other themes. For the sake of this review, I’m going to throw all that hype aside and speak to listeners who are approaching the album from a “Oh, I think I’ve heard of this Frank Ocean guy, what’s the big deal?” standpoint.
So, what is the big deal? Well, the big deal is Ocean released a creative R&B album with genre-bending pop sensibilities and a classic Stevie Wonder-style soul. Channel Orange is filled with songs like “Thinking Bout You,” something of an underground hit, that contain experimental sophistication but can also be enjoyed on their face value as catchy R&B tunes about youthful romance. That’s where Channel Orange really excels: its accessibility. While hipster critics have expounded on the surprisingly melancholic nature of Andre 3000’s guest verse on “Pink Matter,” the song is equally enjoyable to fans of Outkast who simply want to hear a good breakup song.
Following is the official music video for “Thinking Bout You” (a slightly different mix than the album version):
Depending on your perspective, this album may or may not be a big deal. It can be hard to evaluate a record that has already been contextualized by mountains of press and media buzz, whose hyperbolic reviews are almost always impossible to live up to. Taken at face value, however, Channel Orange is a really good R&B pop album with a well-curated aesthetic and relatable lyrics by a talented, engaging singer-songwriter.
Reviewed by Dorothy Berry