Released via iTunes 7/10/2012; Physical Release 7/17/2012
First off, let’s be clear: This isn’t the coming out party on wax some people were thinking. If you’re not over that shit, then you’re missing out. Now, let’s talk about the sneak attack. Odd Future’s resident crooner Frank Ocean leaked that he would release his Def Jam debut 1 week early via iTunes, as his first national TV performance on Jimmy Fallon. At this point, such an unexpected move was expected, as promotion of the album has been as minimal as possible (as in, announcing it via his Tumblr page). It’s the same move that Jay & ‘Ye made with “Watch The Throne” to prevent leaks, and it worked. That, and releasing the album’s Thank You notes that details his first love affair, has made Frank the talk of the entire music industry. Now, let’s talk about the music on Channel Orange (without giving too much away, that is).
After a brief intro that is basically, well, noise, he kicks the album off with the accidental first single: “Thinking About You.” If the album was as accessible and catchy as this, we would’ve been happy. Thankfully, this is the least intricate song on the entire set. Frank pours his entire being into every lyric and gives us his entire complicated life, seemingly as-is.
There are a few interludes on the album, which are designed as commercials in a way, to precede into the next song. “Fertilizer” leads into “Sierra Leone” effortlessly, as do the others. Frank touches on the life of seemingly out of touch brats on “Super Rich Kids (feat. Earl Sweatshirt)” and really attacks the concept of drug addiction on “Crack Rock,” which leaves you hanging by a thread and suddenly cuts off. The 10-minute centerpiece “Pyramids” is captivating, as part 1 is pure synth pop and part 2 being as urban as anything else on the radio right now. It’s brilliant stuff, really.
While there aren’t many guest features at all, the two of the three that stand out here are astonishing. Grabbing John Mayer to strum a bit on “White” and Andre 3000 to co-pilot “Pink Matter” is borderline genius, as the ladder could’ve been written for and only feature 3000, and we’d love it all the same…well, maybe we wouldn’t. Either way, 3 Stacks spits his heart out with a crazy flow. “Bad Religion” is nearly 3 minutes of perfection, backed by a string section that matches the emotion in his voice. “Forrest Gump” is what got all the hoopla started about who Frank is, but, take that away, and you still have a great song.
The bottom line is this: Most of Channel Orange is ahead of its time. There are some slow moments there, and you may not be in the mood to hear some of the songs sometimes, but that doesn’t make the music itself any less potent. I can assure you, this is a must buy.