Album: Frank Ocean, Channel Orange (Def Jam)

 

Simon Price
Saturday 14 July 2012 19:04
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What many people missed, during the torrent of praise for his bravery in coming out as bisexual to a notoriously homophobic hip-hop industry, was the sheer beauty with which Frank Ocean did so.

The letter posted by the Odd Future-affiliated singer-producer, in which he spoke of his first love being a man, was as poetic as his music often is.

There is, in fact, a continuity between the letter and Channel Orange, his debut album. Indeed, the 24-year-old originally intended to make his revelation in the booklet of the CD. Its first proper track, "Thinking About You", reminisces about his "first time", with an ex-lover who is addressed as "boy". The object of "Forrest Gump" is also a man, while "Bad Religion" deals with an unrequited crush on a devout, male, Muslim taxi driver.

The dominant sound of Channel Orange is one of "quiet storm" slow jams laid over lo-fi, broken-speaker beats. But it's far from samey: "Sierra Leone" has Paisley Park-style polyphony, while "Super Rich Kids" might have been something Carole King knocked out in the 1970s.

"I wanted", Ocean wrote, "to create worlds that were rosier than mine. I tried to channel overwhelming emotions." Mission accomplished, and then some.

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