Odd Future Wolf Gang member Frank Ocean released his debut album Channel Orange amidst controversy. Just days before the release of his record, the artist shared with the public a letter touching upon his romantic feelings for another man. Immediately stirring a strong buzz, Channel Orange manages to transcend the album’s preceding events. Frank Ocean has crafted an album full of futuristic sounds, heartbreak, self-medication, songwriting ability and above all, his expressive and poignant voice.
Ocean’s emotional appeals are neither obvious nor ingratiating; the singer is able to tread adeptly through R&B’s soulful side while avoiding the campiness found in his contemporaries (excluding the notable Abel Tesfaye, guised as The Weeknd). Channel Orange’s hooks aren’t over the top, instead creating the atmosphere for a sustainable listen.
Channel Orange features few appearances from fellow Odd Future Wolf Gang members, analogous to Ocean’s disparity with the Hip Hop collective’s sound and abrasive image. Notably, the newly returned Earl Sweatshirt spits on standout track Super Rich Kids, which showcases Ocean’s ability to switch between an innocuous, calm flow to his trademark soulful singing voice. The collective’s leader Tyler, The Creator is additionally featured on the album’s bonus track, Golden Girls, for an ill-fitting dark verse.
The album’s songs individually stand their own ground, yet common themes are found incidentally throughout; Ocean sings most importantly about love and heartbreak, but dabbles repeatedly in the over-indulgence of the rich, alcohol, sex, and drug use. Despite the almost cliché nature of the latter three subject matters, the singer avoids kitsch in his self-medicated delivery: Ocean needs this. You can hear him cringe.
Overall, Channel Orange sets the bar remarkably high for the R&B artist’s future efforts. At 18 songs, the album doesn’t even momentarily disappoint. While being simultaneously ill-suited for Odd Future’s discography, Channel Orange showcases Frank Ocean as a wolf apart from the pack. And we expect good things from him just that way.