This summer, I was introduced to Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE. The R&B album offers a blend of desensitized wisdom and reflective passion. Listening to the album is similar to the feeling of watching a tidal wave crash on mute volume, with the emotional strength of the music resonant, but at the same time restrained. Ocean’s emotional outpour is strong, clear and raw; however, there is a weariness, an exhaustion in his voice and music that doesn’t allow the listener a full emotional immersion. In this way, the album dodges all the clichéd pitfalls of a typical R&B ballad: No one is getting trapped in the closet with R. Kelly.
Ocean’s music reflects the new movement of contemporary R&B––it’s more about reflection and less about dancing in the club. Hitting on themes of decadence and disillusionment, Ocean echoes the feelings of our generation. He seems to undergo a semi-existential crisis born of existence in a half-adult, half-kid state. While these themes pervade the whole album, they are especially present in songs like “Super Rich Kids,” “Pyramids” and “Thinkin Bout You.”
So if I haven’t convinced you to give Frank Ocean a listen, then perhaps these five interesting facts about him will win you over:
1. Ocean worked as a ghostwriter for music pop sensations like Justin Bieber, Beyoncé, Brandy and John Legend.
2. In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit Frank’s hometown of New Orleans, he moved to Los Angeles. What was originally a six-week visit turned into a permanent residence.
3. After speculation about his sexuality before channel ORANGE was released, Ocean wrote an open letter announcing that he had fallen in love with someone of the same sex.
4. In 2010, he became a member of alternative hip hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All.
5. As a child, Ocean grew up listening to his mother’s CDs on her car stereo, including albums by Celine Dion, Anita Baker and the soundtrack to “The Phantom of the Opera.”
Even if you don’t consider Ocean’s personal history, channel ORANGE is a rich, fascinating experience. Give it a listen and immerse yourself in this new corner of today’s musical landscape.