De Amerikaanse muzikant Frank Ocean (1987) is aanvankelijk vooral actief als songschrijver voor andere artiesten als Justin Bieber, John Legend en Brandy. Na verloop van tijd gaat hij ook eigen songs opnemen en in 2011 verschijnt zijn mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra. Een jaar later brengt Ocean zijn debuutalbum Channel Orange uit, dat goed wordt ontvangen. Zijn tweede album Blonde komt in 2016 uit en laat horen dat Ocean een plaatsje verdient bij de elite van de r&b.
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After releasing Nostalgia, Ultra, the successful 2011 mixtape which gave us the hit single Novacane, Frank Ocean has returned with his first official studio album Channel ORANGE, and what an album it is. Funk, electro, soul, ‘90s R&B, a rap collaboration or two, Frank Ocean blends it all into this unique record. Although there are slight hints of artists such as Stevie Wonder, Prince and Marvin Gaye, Ocean is most certainly his own artist with his own distinct style, and in many ways he defies classification. It’s this originality that makes Frank Ocean and Channel ORANGE so artistically intriguing. The Californian paints a picture and tells a story with each song, some more personal, some more observational.After the 45 second introduction of Start, which you could easily imagine being accompanied by a screen reading “loading…”, comes Thinkin Bout You, a track that had been circulating online for around a year by the time Channel ORANGE was released. Displaying great vocal range with his use of falsetto, Ocean spends Thinkin Bout You looking back on a first love and its complications, “Yes, of course, I remember how could I forget how you feel? You know you were my first time, a new feel” he sings as he evokes this relationship. The track creates a very personal atmosphere which pulls us into the singer’s feelings. As well as more personal tracks like the latter, the album consists of a series of short stories from Ocean’s point of view on the various types of characters that reside in society. From the super rich of high society (Sweet Life and Super Rich Kids featuring fellow Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt) to outcast junkies (Crack Rock), a cocaine-cooking girlfriend (Lost) and the Forrest Gump types (Forrest Gump), Frank Ocean takes us on a tour of contrasting universes. The almost 10-minute-long single Pyramids is a journey in itself as it travels from Cleopatra's electro-infused ancient Egypt to a modern day, slow jam, motel love story of a pimp and his stripper, “she’s workin’ at the Pyramid tonight” Ocean sings. Bad Religion signals a return to the more personal side of the album as Frank Ocean takes a ride in the back of a cab in an attempt to escape his feelings. Something most can relate to. Many have made the connection between Bad Religion and that all famous letter that broke the internet back in 2012. The track seems to reflect what was expressed in the letter which tells the story of Ocean and his first love, especially when you consider the lyric “I can never make him love me”. With its mix of styles, its flawless vocals and its richness of narrative content, Channel ORANGE is quite brilliant. © Euan Decourt/Qobuz