Frank Ocean's 'Channel Orange' Reviews Are In: What The Critics Are Saying
A week after coming out on his Tumblr page, rising urban R&B artist Frank Ocean dropped his first major-label debut album, Channel Orange, a week early.
But this is by no means Ocean’s first music venture. The singer-songwriter, 24, got his toes wet as a member of controversial rap collective, Odd Future. Then he went more mainstream, collaborating with hip-hop heavy hitters Kanye West and Jay-Z on the critically acclaimed Watch the Throne album. And he has even penned tracks for Justin Bieber, John Legend and Brandy under his given name, Christopher “Lonny” Breaux.
And Ocean’s opening up about his sexuality on July 4 boosted buzz — and industry support — just ahead of his highly anticipated freshman album release.
So does this trailblazer deliver?
Above and beyond, say many critics.
“Channel Orange presents a complex view of American life from the mind of superbly talented writer and vocalist,” says Billboard. “The production never smothers the singer's sumptuous vocals, which spill over into pockets of air that the listener didn't know could be filled.”
And The Washington Post continues the praise: “Re¬imagining the melodic sensibilities of Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder and the evaporated song structures of D’Angelo, Maxwell and Erykah Badu, he’s forging his own brand of neo-neo-soul… It’s Ocean’s poise as a lyricist, vocalist and producer that feels so arresting…But his songwriting chops shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been following this guy’s young career.”
It’s Ocean’s lyrics that captivated Time, too: “The lyrics elevate the album from being just another above-average R&B record to a brilliant release sure to top many ‘Best of’ lists.”
“The track is a ten-minute history of R&B, arcing from club thumping beats to a sultry drawn out jam with Ocean’s voice veering from a velvety croon to an endearingly creaky falsetto,” continues Time. “The beats alternate between spacey and sexy; driving and drawn out. Despite the length of the song, the track easily holds your attention.”
As a whole, The New York Times see Channel Orange creating its own niche genre. "It’s signature Frank Ocean: dignified, quasi-political, cerebral without being disdainful, fleetingly hopeful," writes the Times. "If that bears little resemblance to the center of what’s happening on the radio — the same can certainly be said for the bulk of Channel Orange — so be it: Mr. Ocean appears to be creating his own gravity."
Billboard's bottom line seems to resonate for many of Ocean's reviewers: "Channel Orange may make Frank Ocean a household name, or it might not. Either way, it's one of the best albums of the year, and Ocean, hopefully, will keep making more like it, without a hint of reservation."
Will you be tuning in to Channel Orange?