Frank Ocean
Channel Orange


4.0
excellent

Review

by Sobhi Youssef EMERITUS
July 15th, 2012 | 782 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A one-man cult and cyanide in my styrofoam cup

In retrospect, releasing "Pyramids" as the lead single from Channel Orange was a well-calculated, brilliant decision. A profound counterpoint to The Weeknd's 2011 launching point in "House of Balloons / Glass Table Girls", it is truly a modern soul opus (in either sense of the word) with its Dam-Funk-esque, minor funk jam imploding into chilled out electro-soul and an airy closing guitar solo courtesy of John Mayer. Very few R&B songs are deserving of the descriptor "epic", but this is one of the flawless few, with good reason igniting Frank Ocean's hype train to near legendary levels.

Maybe all of Channel Orange isn't exactly as amazing as "Pyramids", but it mostly delivers on its promises set forth as well as potential apparent within last year's mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra (if "American Wedding" didn't make you shed a tear, you don't have a heart). As it turns out (not so surprisingly), an album of original Frank Ocean tunes is full of mostly good ideas with respect to production, pulling from a spectrum of popular modern and classic influences - keyboard funk, hip-hop, indie-rock, and electro-pop themed beats are here in full force, yet they are used effectively within the "constraints" of R&B without any singular genre taking over the record. "Super Rich Kids" re-introduces fellow Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt and his more refined/ mature rapping over a slowly evolving piano chord progression, horns, and finally synth arpeggios close out a very laid back hip-hop track (the follow-up to EARL should be excellent).

After the introductory PSX start-screen sample, "Thinkin Bout You" puts forth the framework of most of the record - chilled out R&B crooning, some falsetto here and there, amidst a hip-hop backdrop augmented by any given genre. But the real charm of Frank Ocean lies within his story telling, and he's at his absolute best when expounding tales of love lost, love wanted, and melancholy - "A tornado flew around my room before you came / Excuse the mess it made, it usually doesn't rain / In Southern California much, like Arizona / My eyes don't shed tears, but boy, they pour when / I'm thinking 'bout you". Ocean's ability to emote within the confines of a ballad without making it saccharine or cheesy is nearly unparalleled by any of his contemporaries (besides Abel Tesfaye of course); every single one on Channel Orange is stirring. Most of all, "Bad Religion" steals the show here as a piercing, veracious confessional come therapy session. Specifically, he foreswears love as self-inflicted pain:

He said "Allahu akbar", I told him don't curse me
"But boy you need prayer", I guess it couldn't hurt me
If it brings me to my knees
It's a bad religion
This unrequited love
To me it's nothing but
A one-man cult
And cyanide in my styrofoam cup
I could never make him love me
Never make him love me


"Bad Religion" steals a bit of the Andre 3000-featured "Pink Matter"s thunder, but Benjamin's verse follows an equally inspired Ocean crooning over a subdued guitar lick and string crescendo. Beyond his powerful performance on these ballads, Ocean crafts some excellent pop singles in "Lost" (almost reminiscent of RJD2's Colossus in feel) and the funk-driven, fill-heavy "Monks" with some seriously excellent drums.

With Channel Orange Frank Ocean has proven himself as one of the most significant artists in popular music today; his next effort will definitely have the potential to be a genre classic. Hopefully, he can remedy some of the inconsistency here by expanding the psychedelic future-funk production style, eliminating the sometimes awkward storytelling on non-ballads, and streamlining the song-writing process to more clearly and properly finish songs as opposed to trailing off. Although minor gripes, these small issues really keep Channel Orange from being the magnum opus Ocean is obviously striving for.



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user ratings (1044)
Chart.
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excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Casablanca
July 15th 2012


262 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Excellent review Sobhi. I haven't gotten past Pyramids yet (it's on constant repeat), although I want to listen to André's verse!

kingsoby1
Emeritus
July 15th 2012


4950 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Seriously one of the best songs ever.

JumpTheF**kUp
July 15th 2012


2710 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

pyramids is so incredible

chambered49
July 15th 2012


1727 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

great review/album

elephantREVOLUTION
July 15th 2012


2744 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

great review sobhi. i've only listened to this once but i'm leaning towards a 4 rating.

808muzik
July 15th 2012


944 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Monks is the only meh track for me. Rest is incredible

Digging: The Drums - Encyclopedia

FourthReich
July 15th 2012


17564 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

i thought pink matter was one of the album's weakest songs actually, andre's verse was quite disappointing.

kingsoby1
Emeritus
July 15th 2012


4950 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I wasn't happy with it at first, but it really grew on me

ZedO
July 15th 2012


1096 Comments


silentpotato & kingsoby1 = twin

HolidayKirk
Contributing Reviewer
July 15th 2012


1626 Comments


Something I've been wondering is would critical reception to this album been so positive if he hadnt come out of the closet?

bbdmittenz
July 15th 2012


218 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Love the album.

loveisamixtape
July 15th 2012


6018 Comments


great review

this is all I've been hearing about for the past week or so. thinking I may give it a chance

Romulus
July 15th 2012


8436 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

you nailed it on the last paragraph. i almost find this tough to listen to cause of how clearly he's aiming for a masterpiece and, honestly, how little he missed it by.

only gripe is that the second abel tesfaye reference does feel a bit unnecessary--you've already mentioned that ocean is 'nearly unparalleled' and already provided tesfaye as a comparison. that's really minor though sweet job.

conradtao
Emeritus
July 15th 2012


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Something I've been wondering is would critical reception to this album been so positive if he hadnt come out of the closet?


We'll never know. Although honestly, I hate these kinds of questions. Does it really matter?

In any case, good review and a really beautiful album. It's sometimes really, really, really, really hard to listen to, but when you do push through it's really rewarding.

MalleusMaleficarum
July 15th 2012


14333 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Lost is better than Pyramids?

lmao, get your head checked.

also, no one ever mentions Pilot Jones.. this makes me sad

kingsoby1
Emeritus
July 15th 2012


4950 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

So many good ballads its hard to mention them all

Tyrael
July 15th 2012


20876 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

aw yea Sobhi

Digging: Darkspace - Dark Space III I

Buzzkillr
July 15th 2012


1541 Comments


The harmonies and instrumentation on Sweet Life remind me so much of Janelle Monae...

great album and great review btw

BonRurgundy
July 15th 2012


351 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I may eat some hash brownies and rerate it next weekend, until then I still am slightly disappointed.

WooHa
July 15th 2012


159 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Lost is beast



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