The long awaited solo effort from the silky-voiced Frank Ocean was big enough. Add to the fever his announcement/note/whatever it was that Frank once loved (like, love loved) another man changed this from a record release, to a seismic shift in macho hip-hop culture, not to mention giving his crew, Odd Future, a new air of legitimacy and complexity in the face of all their blatant gay-bashing.
Somehow, lost in all of this, was the record. Ocean’s first release “Novacaine” left many wanting more, including Jay-Z and Kanye West. Ocean would be tapped to sing the refrain on both “Made it in America,” and “No Church in the Wild” on the duo’s epic collaboration Watch the Throne. He would release two more singles, “Swim Good” and “Thinkin’ Bout You,” the latter being the lead track to his major label debut, Channel Orange.
After several spectacularly failed attempts at purchasing the album off of iTunes, I decided to wait until it appeared on Spotify. Now that my beloved music subscription service has gotten their shit together, I wasted no time in listening to the record a couple times.
There was never any doubt in my mind the record would be bad. I had a feeling that Ocean, along with fellow wunderkind Tyler the Creator and other OFWGKTA members would stop worrying about their Albuterol inhalers and typing FLOG GNAW or whatever over and over on their Tumblrs, and see to it that Frank came correct. This wasn’t the case, as only Earl Sweatshirt made his way onto the album in a guest verse on “Super Rich Kids,” the album’s nod to the benefactors of rich parents who buy their merch. Contrasting that, is an all-too-familiar semi-audible conversation teenager being told by his mother why they cannot afford what he wants leading into the song.
What disappoints me I’m afraid is that I only chose to listen to one of the leaked songs prior to the albums actual release. That song, “Pyramids” is far and away the best song on the album. The harmonized voices leading into the electronic early-nineties synthesizer into full on dance beat is infectious, and one part or another will live in your brain for days after first listen.
The song breaks down completely halfway through it’s almost ten minute duration from dance beats into some straight up sex music. This half of the song is an ode to a stripper, and is practically dripping with carnal lust and the kind of unreasonable trance some men just can’t help but fall into when a woman takes their clothing off in front of them to dance. Ocean outdoes himself here, even sneaking a very tasty John Mayer guitar lick at the end.
Saying it was a John Mayer guitar lick isn’t meant to invoke comparison, I mean it’s actually John Mayer. While Earl is the only OFWGKTA representative, the only other credited guests are the aforementioned Mayer on “White” and (in what came as a surprise to me) Andre 3000 adding a verse to “Pink Matter.”
In the end, Ocean has created himself quite a starting point for what I can only hope is a long, brilliant career writing and performing music. His courage to admit whatever he needed to get off his chest may have seemed like a publicity grab at times, but the sentiment never came off as anything other than a genuine admission by someone who knew he was going to have a few more people poking around in his business. The album is a wonderful starting point for someone as young and talented as Ocean. Here’s to many more.