Ocean’s talent runs deep
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.