Rough Tides, Beautiful Ocean
In a culture where misogyny and homophobia run rampant, it takes a brave soul to step out from the clichés of hip hop ethos and let his actions do what so many of his cohorts claim they do. That’s keeping it real. Frank Ocean’s major label debut, channel ORANGE, is released on the heels of a media firestorm over the controversy of his public announcement of his bisexuality. In other cases, this could foreshadow the commercial failure of an album, but when the person in question is a member of the already controversial group, Odd Future, and has previously sunk his teeth into the industry by ghostwriting hits for the likes of Justin Bieber, Brandy and John Legend, it just adds to the intrigue.
“Thinking Bout You” is the first song on the album setting the pace for the remainder of the LP. Sparse instrumentals float behind Frank’s emotional barrage of lyrics. The next song, “Fertilizer,” is short, a mere 40 seconds, but straight to the point. The music could be used for a television theme song in the ’60’s but the lyrics aren’t as modest: “Fertilizer / I’ll take bullshit if that’s all you got.”
“Bad Religion” starts off reminiscent of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” but instead of turning into a upbeat romp, the organ trills on into a ballad-esque confessional of unrequited love. The song takes the shape of a conversation between Mr. Ocean and a taxi driver who he pleads to be his shrink for the hour but just can’t outrun the demons. The next track “Pink Matter” features a guest spot by Andre 3000. On it Ocean preaches on the duality of sex, both the pleasure and the pain it can bring, comparing it to both cotton candy and the Dragon Ball Z villain, Majin Buu. Andre 3000 drops a verse at the end which may not be his best, but even Andre’s worst is better than 99% of any other major artist’s contributions.
channel ORANGE is an album that will be held under scrutiny for both its lyrical content and the controversies surrounding the artists, but even under the most powerful microscope, no one can take away the greatness of this album. Sometimes the phrase modern day classic is thrown around haphazardly but in this instance it is the perfect adjective to describe this opus.