Ocean’s tal­ent runs deep

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Music - JAR­RAD BE­VAN

THE truth about R& B prodigy Frank Ocean is that his ex­plo­sion into the main­stream has been com­ing for some time.

Chan­nel Orange un­rav­els at a lan­guid pace. It is sexy and sul­try, a slow- burn­ing mas­ter­stroke by an artist of just 24 years.

A bunch of mo­ments here pitch Ocean as the sec­ond com­ing of Prince. His funk, his ef­fort­less cool, his blaz­ing gui­tar so­los and hip- wrig­gling rhythms.

Our in­tro­duc­tion to this al­bum was the lu­mi­nous Pyra­mids, a right­eous, epic, 10- minute freak- out that shouldn’t work but it does with self- as­sured ease.

It has vivid im­agery that makes Cleopa­tra sound skanky, drums that play in re­verse and icy- cold synths de­liv­er­ing sub­tle and pretty melodies.

The next song that grabbed at­ten­tion and kicked off the the­o­ris­ing about Ocean’s pri­vate life was the in­ti­mate and re­veal­ing Bad Re­li­gion.

With its moody church or­gans, heavy groove and Ocean’s ur­gent, pro­found, con­fes­sional lyrics, this tune was des­tined to be an al­bum high­light.

He sings about poi­sonous, un­re­quited love and de­clares it a ‘‘ one- man cult’’. It’s a melan­cholic and beau­ti­ful mo­ment.

Last week, be­fore the tal­ented crooner and Odd Fu­ture crew mem­ber be­came an ad­vo­cate for same- sex love, he was an in- de­mand song­writer and mu­sic pro­ducer work­ing with the likes of Justin Bieber and Kanye West.

Ocean’s on­line an­nounce­ment about his first ex­pe­ri­ence with love was brave, rare and risky. Es­pe­cially for some­one look­ing at a Top- 10 chart de­but, some­one deeply en­trenched in the of­ten ho­mo­pho­bic world of ur­ban gen­res such as hip- hop and R& B. His reve­la­tion has given some of these songs a sharp fo­cus and fresh con­text.

Re­gard­less of the story go­ing on around it, it’s im­por­tant not to for­get that this al­bum is amaz­ing.

Chan­nel Orange harks back to the R& B glory days of Marvin Gaye and Ste­vie Won­der while look­ing into the fu­ture as well with some fancy mu­si­cal trick­ery.

Ocean riffs on the priv­i­leged lives of the 1 per cent on Su­per Rich Kids and The Sweet Life; sheds some tears with the touch­ing bal­lad Think­ing About You; some­how makes a love song metaphor out of whis­tle- laden For­est Gump; and throws a punch at the un­winnable war on drugs with Crack Rocks.

On Pink Mat­ter An­dre 3000 pro­duces a rapid- fire verse like only he can while Ocean shows off his con­fi­dent falsetto and tenor.

Odd Fu­ture leader Tyler, the Cre­ator ap­pears on the easy- breezy Golden Girls but you’ll need the CD not iTunes ver­sion to hear it.

Chan­nel Orange is slow- paced, of­ten sad and very re­veal­ing.

It’s also the most com­plete de­but to emerge in a long time.

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