Marcus Reviews Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange

10 Jul

Start: Frank turns on his Playstation (The sound of the start up screen brings back fond memories), presses start on Street Fighter and our audio adventure begins!

Thinkin Bout You: By now we’ve all heard this song but for those that haven’t heard the album version yet it’s just the original version with some added vocals and instruments to round it all out. It’s still as great as it was the first time you heard it so I don’t need to really say much here. (5/5)

Fertilizer: The first interlude of the album features Frank singing a short but catchy little jingle about accepting someone’s bullshit if that’s all that they’ve got (even in a 30 second interlude his clever songwriting shines). I actually wouldn’t have minded hearing that as a full song because I know he would’ve made it truly interesting.

Sierra Leone : Over a filtered low-fi instrumental Frank tells a story of an experience with a girl named Sierra Leone while cleverly comparing her to the country in Africa that she was named after. It’s a short one (40 seconds less and it could be an interlude itself) but there’s something dream-like about this track that kept me coming back. (4/5)

Sweet Life: The third official track to be released off of Channel Orange is a jazzy little number about appreciating the more modest things in life. Singing “Why see the world, when you’ve got the beach?” Frank shows that he’s a man of simple tastes over the smooth Neptunes production. It may not be as lyrically adventurous as some of his other tracks but it’s the simplicity of it all that makes it all work so well. Definitely made me think of Maxwell when I heard it. (4.5/5)

Not Just Money: In the second interlude, two women talk about money not being the most important thing in life.

Super Rich Kids feat Earl Sweatshirt: Opening with piano strikes reminiscent of the Elton John classic “Bennie & the Jets”, Frank talks about his experience with a group of brash & spoiled rich kids with no supervision while crooning a little bit of “Real Love” by Mary J. Blige in the bridge for good measure. If you’d been to one of his concerts earlier this year or been on Youtube (like myself) then you’ve heard the live version of this track already but the album version features a short but effective verse from the elusive Earl Sweatshirt. Definitely one of the strongest tracks on the album and a personal favorite of mine. (5/5)

Pilot Jones: After a short spoken intro, Frank shows off his falsetto over a distorted beat that sounds like it’d be on Andre 3000’s The Love Below album as he chronicles his spontaneous relationship with a reckless older woman that he has irrationally fallen for. This track is yet another showcase of his creative and unorthodox that Frank is when it comes to storytelling. One of my favorite tracks on the album (4.5/5)

Crack Rock: Backed by an old school breakbeat-esque instrumental tells the tragic tale about a man who’s life fell apart after getting addicted to crack. It’s a pretty chill record overall but if I’m being honest it’s a bit weak compared to the other tracks on the album. (3.5/5)

Pyramids: Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard and played this track a ridiculous amount of times by now. This, to me, is Frank’s magnum opus. Starting off as a synth heavy jam telling the tale of the Egyptian princess herself and then eventually turning the song into a sensual slow jam about a stripper with clever allusions to the Egyptian lore with a John Mayer guitar solo to close it out, Pyramids is a truly epic track. If there was ever a song that showcases everything that’s special about Frank Ocean , this would be it. Arguably the best track to drop this year. (5/5)

Lost: “Girl you know your lost, lost in the heat of it all” Ocean sings as he as he divulges the details of his fling with a girl that takes them around the world making reckless decisions. It’s a solid track overall but there’s nothing that really makes it stand out, especially when it comes after a song like Pyramids. (3.5/5)

White feat John Mayer: This isn’t a longer version of the track of same name that was featured on the Odd Future Tape Vol 2, but is instead the third interlude featuring about 45 seconds of John Mayer strumming on the guitar.

Monks: Frank tells us of some of his sexual conquests with women while on tour, most noticeably an Indian girl with a British accent who’s in over her head, over a drum heavy funk groove. Another track that won’t really change your life but it’s catchy enough to not be considered filler. (3.75/5)

Bad Religion: After a couple of average tracks, Frank reminds us of his prowess with the pen as he tells a story of unrequited love in the form of a late night taxi cab confessional backed by a mournful orchestra. The truly interesting thing about the subject matter though is that it could either be about organized religion or a broken relationship, it’s all up to interpretation. It’s also on this track where he shows the first true signs of his bisexuality with the line “I can never make him love me” which is boldly sang several times in the chorus. It’s a controversial but nonetheless beautiful song and will definitely be one of the most buzz worthy tracks on the album. It’s a shame it’s so short. (4.75/5)

Pink Matter feat Andre 3000: Spacey background synths, a cinematic strings section, random chants and a lone guitar provide the backdrop for Ocean’s sultry vocals as he questions the meaning of life and spares with his “sensei” (I personally think he’s referring to God/”The Higher Power” here) in outer space. The song is already amazing on its own then the ever enigmatic Andre3000 shows up, drops one of the illest verses of the year so far, does a small vocal duet with Frank and closes the track out with another 8 bar verse. This song is right behind Pyramids as my favorite song on the album. (5/5)

Forrest Gump: The last track on the album also serves as its most controversial as Frank blatantly professes his love for the “Forrest Gump” over a southern-tinged instrumental. Once again the meaning of this song is completely left up to interpretation. It could be about him exploring his sexuality or it could be a concept song from the perspective of Forrest Gump’s love interest, Jenny. Nonetheless it’s a fun little track that closes out the album on a lighter note (albeit an eyebrow raising one). (4.5/5)

End: While a distorted version of Voodoo plays over a car radio, Frank and a female make out before she begins to tell him how special he is to which he seemingly shrugs off and goes back inside. Thus ending our adventure.

Overall:

Channel Orange one of those rare albums that comes along every once in a while that can truly be considered “special”. In a time where most R&B (and music in general for that matter) is beginning to retread the same tired topics and soundscapes, Frank Ocean’s debut album takes the norm and turns it on it’s ear. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea and it’s bound to ruffle some feathers, one thing that Ocean succeeded in doing is make the first truly intriguing mainstream album in what seems like a long time. The music crosses several genres, Frank shows off impressive vocal range throughout, the song structures are unconventional & the lyrics are often times both thought provoking and heart-wrenching. Yes there are a couple of misfires (even the misfires are better than some artists better tracks) and the some of the song lengths leave a bit to be desired, but the good FAR outweighs the bad here. While artists like The Weeknd may have more expensive sounding production and more brash lyrical content, simply put no one is doing music like Frank Ocean right now. Frank doesn’t simply make songs he makes movies in audio form and you can’t help but get drawn into the journey that he takes you on. It’s honestly one of the few albums that I’ve ever heard that actually gets better with each listen. Time will tell if turns out to be a timeless album but one things for sure, Channel Orange may just be the best album to drop in 2012. Thank you Frank.

Lyrics: 5/5

Production: 4.75/5

Replay Value: 4.5/5

Rating: 4.75/5

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One Response to “Marcus Reviews Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange”

  1. Keith Meatto July 10, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    Nice track by track analysis and overall assessment. Agreed that this is a great album. If you’re curious, here are my thoughts on Channel Orange http://bit.ly/eIIx1A and last year’s release Nostalgia ULTRA http://bit.ly/eIIx1A on the NY arts and culture website Frontier Psychiatrist.

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