Release Date: Jul 17, 2012
Record label: Def Jam
FRANK OCEAN plays the Guvernment July 31. See listing. Rating: NNNNN The deeply personal note Frank Ocean posted to his Tumblr page in response to speculation about his sexuality was an indisputably historic moment, but any fears that his private life might overshadow his music are obliterated by his major label debut, which just got a surprise early release.
After reading Frank Ocean’s letter about his love for a man and how it influenced Channel Orange, I thought of a scene from Jonathan Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude. In the novel, which like Ocean’s songwriting draws heavily from the writer’s own experiences, two male friends engage in mutual masturbation. The narrator makes a point to note that they’re not gay, they’re “best friends, discoverers.” Whether Lethem was one of these boys at some point– and clarified more for his own sake than his characters’– matters as little as whether Ocean did what he did for himself or for the sake of his painstakingly crafted debut.
The news that Frank Ocean had apparently outed himself as bisexual received a variety of reactions, but perhaps the most curious was the suggestion he was indulging in a kind of publicity stunt. In fairness, you can see why people thought that. His announcement arrived just before his major label debut album was due and overnight it turned Ocean into the most-discussed R&B artist in the world.
The question isn't who Frank Ocean loves. It's how he loves: ardently, recklessly, yet knowingly, with a young man's headlong passion and a mordant wisdom beyond his years. Ocean made headlines when he revealed on his Tumblr that his first love had been a man; his laments for that doomed romance are all over Channel Orange, his first official album.
To the listener: Ignore whatever purist backlash you may encounter. In Channel Orange, we have been granted a truly classic document, perhaps the very first that feels synchronized with the present decade. “Thinkin Bout You” may be the track of 2012, but Ocean goes much deeper than this on his transcendent debut. “Sweet Life” is a citrus slice of Wonder, “Pyramids” is a hypnotic meditation and “Bad Religion” stuns in its naked candor.
Frank Ocean is airborne, looking around, taking it all in. "Up above the birds, I saw the sky like I never seen before," he whispers on his major-label debut, Channel Orange, as avian chirps surround him. "You thought I was above you." The 24-year-old has quickly proven himself to be among the most gifted singer-songwriters of his generation; he's got the type of voice, wit, charm, smarts, and ineffable humanity that's always hoped for, but never promised.
Frank OceanChannel Orange[Def Jam; 2012]By Craig Jenkins; July 18, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetAs home to the movie industry, the porn industry, the make-or-break rock clubs of the Sunset Strip, the beachfront properties and rampant prostitution of Santa Monica, the regal affluence of Beverly Hills, as well as the gang violence of Inglewood and Compton, Los Angeles and its surrounding territories have long held a reputation for decadence, a spirit of overindulgence that has informed decades of its art. It spooked the coked-out Laurel Canyon poets of the singer-songwriter era and militarized the hood-CNN prophets of gangsta rap. It lit the fuse of disaffected nihilism in the first wave of California punks and the hedonistic grandiosity of the '80s glam metal scene.
Epic hype, possible out and proud gay and/or bisexual R&B icon, Tumblr lolz. Right, we’ve mentioned all that, now let’s get stuck into the actual meat of Frank Ocean's channel ORANGE… channel ORANGE speaks to and about identity: specifically, how one reconciles a burgeoning individual identity with the overarching, occasionally oppressive groupthink of one's roots. It’s about what it is to belong to a culture still defined, however subtly, by its own code of 'being a man' and all that entails.
Frank Ocean has had quite the 2012. After word surfaced that his debut mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra, wouldn't see a deluxe rerelease from label Def Jam, it seemed there was a real risk he'd be left behind, another victim of label politics and the machinations of men in suits who don't really know what good music is. .
Frank Ocean, signed by Def Jam but ignored by the label, saw his career languish until 2011, when he made the smart decision to release his own mixtape, a choice that, paired with his fringe membership in the ascending Odd Future crew, has placed him on the brink of superstardom. Now he’s guesting on Jay-Z tracks, writing songs for Beyoncé, and releasing his own expensive-sounding debut, the first material he’s recorded with professional producers. It’s comforting, then, to sink into Channel Orange and witness Ocean’s modest version of an upgrade: The intro sound effects on Nostalgia, Ultra were titled “Street Fighter,” and the ones featured here on opener “Start” are similar but a little more upscale, the recognizable tinkle that accompanied booting up a Sony PlayStation.
Def Jam's contracted edition of Frank Ocean's Nostalgia, Ultra never materialized. The label nonetheless released two of the mixtape's songs as singles. One of them, "Novacane," clashed with everything else on the radio, reached the Top 20 of Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart, and crossed into the Hot 100. The singer's presence spread with appearances on Goblin, 4, Watch the Throne, and The OF Tape, Vol.
As a guest voice on Watch the Throne or a modest presence in the rabble-rousing rap group Odd Future, Frank Ocean tends to leave a calming effect on everything he touches. It’s interesting, then, that he seems at his most comfortable when he’s making big statements, like the one he made with that letter he posted to his Tumblr on July 4, a response to a music critic who asked about gender pronouns on his new album. The letter, originally intended to be liner notes for the physical copy of Channel Orange, told the story of Frank’s first love, who happened to be a male.
Frank Ocean :: channel ORANGEOdd Future/Def JamAuthor: Steve 'Flash' JuonEver since the early 1990's and possibly before, hip-hop fans and pundits have speculated on which unidentified mystery man was the "gay rapper" keeping his secret in the closet. In hindsight that's actually pretty silly, because if there are thousands of rappers in the music business, there ought to at a minimum DOZENS of homosexual male and female artists. That's just statistics and averages.
The Frank Ocean we know came to us after a membership into Odd Future Wolfgang Kill Them All. It was there that Ocean began to adopt OFWGKTA’s do-it-yourself attitude that would ultimately propel him from an unknown already-signed artist to the biggest oversight in recent record label history. Through OFWGKTA, Ocean learned the important lesson of taking control over his own movement, resulting in the flourished and realized Nostalgia, Ultra.
The promotion of channel ORANGE as Frank Ocean’s “solo debut”, while technically accurate, is something of a disservice to the material he’s already put out. His brilliant 2011 mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra had the strength of a studio recording, despite its free-over-the-internet release. The fact that Ocean took it upon himself to put the music out after his current label Def Jam sat on it for way too long made it an even richer experience.
Review Summary: A one-man cult and cyanide in my styrofoam cupIn 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.
Early last year Frank Ocean put together a mixtape of his own music, Nostalgia, Ultra, and posted it online. Ocean, who signed to hip-hop label Def Jam in 2009, had struggled to get his solo career off the ground and was writing songs for other artists, among them John Legend and Justin Bieber. But in 2010 he met Odd Future, a gang of LA rap reprobates with a free-for-all approach to music distribution, and he decided to adopt their strategy.
If you’re unfamiliar with the particulars of Frank Ocean’s biography, there are plenty of other outlets that can better catch you up to speed. Enough has been written about the circumstances surrounding the release of Channel Orange, Ocean’s commercial debut, so much perhaps that when reading about the album, one might get the sense that the music is secondary to the portents of whatever cultural shifts the author perceives. The week leading up to the early iTunes release of Channel Orange marked a revival to a mono-culture of which many have mourned the loss.
They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but Frank Ocean might have a thing or two to say about that. Since he published a certain Tumblr post (which was initially planned to be included within Channel ORANGE itself), he’s become one of the most talked-about artists on the planet. There have been countless features, articles and op-ed pieces about him, though depressingly few have focused primarily on his music.
It’s terribly hard nowadays to try and discuss an album one enjoys without sounding too preachy, too emotionally attached and too, well, in love. I’m not sure if that’s a facet of the times or perhaps, it’s always seemed that way (did everyone get annoyed when every single album by Stevie Wonder was universally loved or was it justly expected?) but usually, when new music strikes so hard, it’s easy to let go. Wonder makes a nice comparison for R&B/soul mastermind Frank Ocean who seems to be indubitably indebted to Wonder’s fantastic take on music.
In a surreal low-point for music PR the world over, Def Jam describe R&B wonder-kid and card-carrying Odd Future g-man, Frank Ocean, as "impossible to miss, like a panda bear in a pine forest." Exposed mammals aside though, they've got a point. Because ever since Ocean dropped his debut Nostalgia Ultra last January the Louisianan's been a very hard man to ignore. Like a squirrel monkey, dressed as a woman, driving a car, in Bournemouth.
Usher. R. Kelly. A D'Angelo revival in the works. 2012 is shaping up as quite a year for R&B. Inciting the highest celebration is Odd Future affiliate Frank Ocean and his major-label debut Channel Orange, an ethereal, embattled, and introspective work that puts everything in its right place in ….
Try as one might, one can't help but flash a furtive eyebrow or two at the curious timetabling between Frank Ocean effectively outing himself and the album release date of Channel Orange. Engineered or not, the ensuing publicity would have been hollow if the album was a dud ? it is not. Make no mistake, though: Channel Orange isn't a masterpiece. What it is, frankly speaking, is one of the brightest R&B-flavoured projects to touch the mainstream in a long time.
Frank Ocean came out last week. But what he came out as is up for debate. In two long paragraphs on his Tumblr, the 24-year-old R&B artist and Odd Future associate wrote, “4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together.” He ….
Odd Future singer delivers standout major label debut. Marcus J. Moore 2012. Two weeks ago, many knew very little about Frank Ocean. The New Orleans-born RnB singer had kept a relatively low profile as a member of the controversial Odd Future collective. A quiet outlier, he scored notable ….