“Or do you not think so for ahead?” Frank Ocean sings on the chorus to the second and most covered song “Thinkin Bout You” (see Justin Bieber, Bridget Kelly- even though it was supposed to be her first single, and a bunch of Youtubers) from his latest album Channel ORANGE. Despite his bravery for coming out about his sexuality and his great songwriting, I wasn’t a full-fledged believer in his music. From listening to a lot of his demos and previously-leaked music, I found him to be very “blah,” but I decided on a whim (which I barely do) to purchase his album and review. Believe it or not, I was PLEASANTLY surprised.
Vocally, Mr. Ocean ( can call him that because he legally changed his last name to that) reminds me of a modern day Prince. Keep in mind, I’m a big Prince fan and I don’t easily compare him to anymore. What reminds me of Prince when it comes to Francis is his very streamlined-tone-yet-wide range he has. Not to mention, he clearly isn’t afraid to write and sing songs about topics many artists, regardless of background would talk about (exposing his vulnerable side about unrequited love from both women and men). Now, he doesn’t really produce or play musical instruments like Prince, but clearly the musical compositions and styles that he chose for this album are very “him,” like the instrumental “White” track he has, composed and produced by John Mayer and Tyler the Creator.
He also has songs that I could hear someone like D’Angelo on, such as the smooth Neo-Soul sounds of “Sierra Leone” and the soulful jazz sounds of “Crack Rock.” He even has a Go-go inspired Jazzy record entitled “Monks,” where his backing vocals slightly reminds me of 90s R&B group Playa.
The most compelling tracks from the album, in my opinion, are “Bad Religion,” “Pink Matter,” and “Pyramids.” These are the songs that describe the album musically. “Bad Religion” is where he sings of unrequited love, presumably of his first love with a man. He sings about the struggle and strife of society saying how he shouldn’t and can’t feel the way he’s feeling. In “Pink Matter,” he softly sings about the “pink matter” (vagina) that we all come from. Then there’s “Pyramids,” the LONGEST song on the album, nearing 10 minutes. It’s one of those songs that kind of remind me how singles were constructed in the 70s and 80s, where you’d flip the record over to hear an alternate version of the main single (like Soft Cell‘s “Tainted Love” vs “Where Did Our Love Go?“). In Pyramids, the sound switches from a dark-yet-trippy beat to something a bit happier in the second half, while maintaining the topic of being trapped by Cleopatra-esque girl’s pyramid.
I recommend that any R&B/Soul music listener to buy the album, especially if you’re a fan (the physical version is in stores now- EXCEPT TARGET). My recommendation for Frank Ocean is to reach out to Prince, whether it be to do music together or a tour….something. Oh, and he should definitely work with D’Angelo for his up-coming project.