The Score: "[Channel Orange's] Pulsing W/ Electro-Soul Grooves, Vintage Jazz-Funk & Angelino-Friendly Cameos By John Mayer & Andre 3000"

Thursday, Jul 12, 2012 1:05PM

Written by J Bachelor

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  • Channel Orange
  • Frank Ocean
  • July 12, 2012
Red Eye Chicago 4/4
The Guardian 5/5
Diffuser 9/10
DJ Booth 5/5

After creating a world of controversy, singer Frank Ocean now has fans and critics alike shifting their attention to his debut album, the Def Jam release, Channel Orange.

The New Orleans native sent the web chatter into overdrive recently after revealing he fell in love with a man as a teenager. Despite the mix of criticism and praise, the music world seems to be in agreement that his latest musical offering may be one of the most celebrated albums of the year.

This weekend marked one of the most highly anticipated albums in a long time, Frank Ocean's Channel Orange. Every since the man made his mark on the scene as a member of the California crew Odd Future, much has been said about his talents as a singer and songwriter. The album, Channel Orange, further cements Mr. Ocean as a force to be reckoned with.(Stupid Dope)

In the midst of controversy, Ocean made the decision to push forward the date of his album's intended release, offering fans a chance to purchase his album a week early.

Last week, on July 4, Ocean posted a passage to his Tumblr, where he revealed that at the age of 19, he fell in love with a man who was unable to reciprocate the feeling. In the post, which was originally intended to occupy the liner notes of Channel Orange, the Odd Future standout made no specific mention of his sexuality, steering clear of words like "gay" or "bisexual." There is no definitive declaration during the course of the LP, either, which was released on Monday night digitally. But one thing is clear: When Frank Ocean loves, he loves hard.(MTV)

Guests on the highly anticipated release include Andre 3000, John Mayer, and fellow Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt.

A transplant from New Orleans, Ocean is less concerned with urban realism than with his own '80s-noir fantasy of what the city's like, and his music captures that vibe perfectly, pulsing with electro-soul grooves, vintage jazz-funk, and Angelino-friendly cameos by John Mayer and Andre 3000. Orange even echoes other great odes to California glitz ("Super Rich Kids" nods to Elton John's "Bennie and the Jets," while "Lost" references Eve and Gwen Stefani's "Let Me Blow Ya Mind"). The Hollywood clich├ęs are intentional--there's a song called "Forrest Gump"--but Ocean's smart about tweaking them, especially on the love songs, where he's just as likely to praise a girl's double-D's as allude to his crush on a guy.(EW)

Ocean opts for a more nostalgic sound when creating music, summoning the essence of music icons that include Stevie Wonder and Elton John.

But the personal stuff seems at odds with the rest of the album, where Ocean shifts away from the latterday model of the male R&B singer as a kind of Auto-Tuned solipsist, ever ready to elicit sympathy for terrible lot of the multi-platinum superstar. Ocean's sound looks further back - you catch hints of early-70s Stevie Wonder in the melodies and the preponderance of electric piano - but there's nothing reverential about his approach. In a formulaic era, his production is impressively idiosyncratic, heavy on hazy electronics and cavernous, dubby reverb, and packed with weird touches: the melodies never quite pan out as you expect them to, while the backing shifts and changes unpredictably.(The Guardian)

Many critics are calling this release a classic, and much needed, entry in the the struggling genre of R&B, while others insist that this is just the first of many impactful releases from the young crooner.

For years, the best of new R&B has scraped by on young guns raiding the sounds of the '60s and been steadied by its grandparents (see over-the-hill releases by Al Green, Solomon Burke, Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones, Mavis Staples). But as far as forward-thinking, rule-bending visionaries -- the lifeblood of any form of art -- the genre has consistently come up short-handed, save, notably, Cee-Lo and Janelle Monae. But with the critical and mainstream successes surrounding this album, it's obvious: R&B fans are thirsty for this type of rich, spartan, and, above all, honest music. 'Channel Orange' may not be the perfect album we've wanted, but it's a promising and consistently rewarding document from a brilliant artist with his best to come and, let's hope, the first and much needed wake up call to a genre in desperate need of a revival. (Diffuser)
As deeply, deeply personal as Channel Orange so often is, Ocean also channels the spirit of Marvin Gaye by turning R&B into protest music. Crack Rock is as close to hip-hop, combining banging percussion with a softer melody that undercuts both the sadness and anger that the War on Drugs has created: "F**king pig get shot, 300 men will search for me / my brother get popped, and don't no one hear the sound." So on Channel Orange Frank Ocean is both a writer of beautiful ballads and a writer of a revolution. He's both a lover of men and women, both an observer of the human condition and an overwhelmed participant. Frank Ocean is too many things to possibly describe on this page, but that's why he created Channel Orange. Instead of trying to describe his life in text we could listen to it, and rarely has anyone given us so much of their life to listen to. This is more than an album, this is a moment in music history. Enjoy it.(DJ Booth)

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