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Album Review
Channel Orange

Channel Orange
by Frank Ocean

Def Jam

Review Date
24th September 2012
Reviewed by
Joel Greatbatch

Only 24 years old and R&B superstar in the making Frank Ocean has already accrued an impressive resume. Ghost writing songs for the likes of Justin Beiber and Brandy, collaborating on Watch the Throne with Jay Z and Kanye West, a critically acclaimed EP under his belt (Nostalgia, Ultra) and now one of the best albums of the year in the form of debut long-player Channel Orange.

Everything about Channel Orange is smooth, understated and crazy sexy cool. The production is immaculate and at times tremendously sparse with underwater drum machine kicks and gentle synths only seeking to bring Ocean’s dynamic vocal styling to the fore. The way he shifts gear in regards to his vocals is one of Ocean’s best weapons as he softly croons, raps or coos in his silky falsetto. This is best consummated on ‘Thinking About You’, a beautiful and gentle bauble that climbs from a composed spoken rhyme to a sweet falsetto chorus that sends shivers down my white boy spine.

Every song has its own special vibe and groove; ‘Sierra Leone’ being some un-conventional but serious baby making music, ‘Super Rich Kids’ a plodding and head nodding swipe at the young American aristocracy, ‘Monks’ a funky as heck jam that gives the drum machine a break for some impressive live drum work, and ‘Bad Religion’ a heart breaking unrequited love ballad that showcases Ocean’s prowess as a genuine song writer. But Channel Orange isn’t without a bit of help, with Outkast’s Andre 3000 laying down some rhymes in ‘Pink Matter’ and strangely enough John Mayer credited as contributing some of his trademark bluesy guitar licks.

However it’s the artistic approach, the unwavering commitment to being smart while still being sexy, that sets Frank Ocean apart from his syrupy contemporaries. This is what R Kelly should be writing if he wasn’t hiding in closets and being weird. This is what D’Angelo should be returning to bestow upon the world. Instead we have a young man from New Orleans gracing us with one of the best R&B albums this side of the new millennium. Get upon it.


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