This post was almost titled: “Please Don’t Let Frank Ocean Be Gay, And Other Prayers I Uttered During My Channel Orange Listening Session.” I changed my mind about calling it that, but I thought ya’ll should know how I’m feelin over here. I nearly passed out when I saw that Channel Orange was live-streaming for free last week, for no apparent reason. I’ve been spending a lot of time on Hypetrak listening to my new favorite album, and now that it’s been released I’m ready to physically walk into a store and purchase Frank Ocean‘s debut album (yes, walk into a store… because it’s that good). Check out my track-by-track review of/love affair with Channel Orange inside. And Trent got to see him live earlier this week. It’s fine. I’m fine with that. Fine.
*Words sound better with music. Go here for the full album stream. I’ve embedded my *faves.*
I think we were all worried that the title of the album (though hella cool) would never make sense. No fear– it all (kind of) makes sense with this intro. A quick burst of sounds gives you the feeling that what you’re about to experience is a work of art conceived by technology as much as it was by emotion. The ‘channel‘ changes with each interlude.
*2. Thinkin Bout You
I was just singing this ballad to my 23-month old. He was staring into my eyes and falling in love with me so hardcore. So now we can never tell him that some genius named Frank Ocean wrote it. I also can’t show him the accompanying video, which really complicates the love story at work here. Another strange thing is that I couldn’t help but be reminded of Drake when Frank was rapping. But Drake– he can’t “>croon like The Ocean (I call him The Ocean sometimes). So it’s not a completely accurate comparison, but there was a similarity in styling.
Such a sweet interlude! And this is the first time where we hear Frank doing this brilliant Stevie Wonder-esque thing; I mean The Ocean can really, really sing. Fun lyrics too: Fertilizer/I’ll take bullshit if that’s all you got/Some fertilizer. Yup. I’ve been there.
4. Sierra Leone
This is another song where Frank embarrasses all those who have previously attempted to rap and sing on one track. Somehow this song is as much about conceiving and giving birth to a child, as it is about a return home. Like other songs on Channel Orange, Sierra Leone recalls a lost (and then found) Africa that one can, sometimes, only sing about. It’s a lovely track, but it’s not one of my favorites. Still, it’s been growing on me, so you never know.
5. Sweet Life
This was another song that wasn’t initially a fave, but the lyrics are so effing brilliant! Frank sings an ode to Black Beverly Hills that’s also a tragic love story of sorts: The best song wasn’t the single, but you weren’t either/Livin’ in Ladera Heights, the black Beverly Hills/Domesticated paradise, palm trees and pools/The water’s blue, swallow the pill/Keepin’ it surreal, whatever you like. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I plan on keepin’ it very surreal from this point on. Ugh. Such a cool song.
6. Not Just Money
In this interlude, Frank borrows from a recording of a real conversation between his friend and his friend’s Mom. And I am so glad that we get to hear somebody speaking the truth about money being more than ‘just money’ when you don’t have it. Although, this is an ongoing conversation in hip-hop: Stop thinking of this as being money/It’s just money, I’mma make more/No, no no no no no/Please decondition yourself/It’s happiness/It’s the difference between happy, being happy and sad/It’s the difference between having a home and living on the streets/That’s what it is, it’s not just money.
*7. Super Rich Kids (feat. Earl Sweatshirt)
As the reviewer at Paste pointed out, Channel Orange is a narrative album to be played from beginning to end– just like in the old days :) Super Rich Kids follows the Not Just Money interlude as a way of displaying the other side of the coin. Super rich kids with nothin but loose ends/super rich kids with nothin but fake friends reminds us that money isn’t everything– isn’t anything– to people with unlimited access to it. Anybody seen Anne Hathaway in Havoc? Exactly. And Earl Sweatshirt did it on em; the two are perfectly in synch as their sounds conflict with and complete each other. The composition is also brilliant, with a sample of Elton John‘s Bennie and the Jets and a shout-out to Mary J.Blige (who also sampled John) on the bridge: I’m searching for a real loooove!
8. Pilot Jones
Frank‘s got a Love Jones… but not for love. For flying high. Although I don’t condone drug use, the track has the perfect stoner sound. Somewhere out there, Snoop and Wiz Khalifa have this song on repeat.
9. Crack Rock
On love lost and dependency of all sorts, Frank continues to amaze me with his inability to care about traditional composition on a song. You can almost hear him performing this song live, trying out different things but still hyper-aware of form. The lyrics are reminiscent of dead prez circa 2000, and make you long for the days when neo-soul ruled the world: Crooked cop, dead cop/No good for community/Fucking pig get shot/Three hundred men will search for me/My brother get popped/And don’t no one hear the sound.
I’ve written odes to this song and I named it the best song of the summer (so far) for good reason. The only thing left to say is that it starts out with almost exactly the same sound as DMX‘s What’s My Name. So that’s it for me. I’m in lurve forever with this song about pimps and skrippers and African Queens who were played by Elizabeth Taylor. That’s all. Oh– and it’s really fun watching/reading people beef over the meaning of the song on Rap Genius.
Lost is another song that will complicate any notions of Frank Ocean as a total sweetheart. He says some very naughty things on this track :) With lyrics like She’s at a stove/Can’t believe I got her out here cooking dope, it’s hard for me to see Frank as strictly an R&B artist. The subject matter is, often, very hip-hip.
12. White (feat. John Mayer)
Anybody who’s ever wanted to hear John Mayer just play (and not sing or talk about Taylor Swift) should be pleased with this sweet little interlude. It features Mayer on the guitar and nothing else.
It’s not about monks. It’s about African girl speaks in English accent/Likes to fuck boys in bands/Likes to watch Westerns/And ride me without the hands. Wait, no it’s about monks too: Monks in the mosh pit/Stage diving Dalai Lama/Feet covered in cut flowers/They mosh for enlightenment. He is insane. I mean brilliant. I mean insane.
14. Bad Religion
Many people have read deep into the obvious religious connotations on the song. Personally, I love the idea of unrequited love as a bad religion– akin to all religions which require you to worship someone without constant awareness or knowledge of those feelings being returned.
15. Pink Matter (feat. Andre 3000)
Frank calls for Pleasure over Matter on this track. But the song is so ridiculously mellow, it’s a bit of a disappointment. Although, one’s expectations are a little high when Andre 3000 is involved. Still, it’s a nice track and it’s got the hottest Ernest Hemingway reference ever (courtesy of Three-Stacks).
*16. Forrest Gump
My fingertips, and my lips, they burn/From the cigarettes/Forrest Gump you run my mind boy/Running on my mind boy/Forrest Gump/I know you Forrest/I know you wouldn’t hurt a beetle/But you’re so buff, and so strong/I’m nervous Forrest.
Yup. Ish just got real.
The perfect, artsy goodbye. We listen to the sounds of somebody stopping the tape, getting out of the car, and heading back home. We’re invited in, but only if we listen closely. Is it the end? Or the beginning of me listening to this entire thing again? Probably the beginning…
18. Somebody answered one of my many prayers uttered during this listening sesh and Chopped & Screwed Channel Orange. Crunk/Trap Music/Southern Rap/Paul Wall fans (shouts out to Adriana), go here. It’s called Channel Purple. And you’re welcome.