Frank Ocean’s album “Channel Orange” is what R&B should be. Its production is creative, the lyrics tell a good story, and Ocean has a good falsetto and soulful voice. Too much R&B nowadays is generic and/or features uninteresting lyrics. The beats here are original sounding and ambitious, and the story telling here is atypical in urban music. The story telling is more typical of what you’d hear on an indie rock record.
From the start, I admired Ocean’s talents as a singer and producer. Ocean is the only member of Odd Future whom I’m a fan of. I have mixed feelings about Tyler and the rest of the group. There’s a lot of creative production in their work, but the sadistic lyrics spoil it (that’s a whole other story).
The style of “Channel Orange” is comparable to some of Prince’s earlier work, in that its R&B music with beats and production that are unconventional. A modern comparable work would be Drake’s “Take Care” album. Like most of “Take Care”, “Channel Orange” is always reflective and melancholy. There are no fun, upbeat, poppy songs here. Sometimes the songs deal with love, sometimes with socioeconomic issues. Vocally, Ocean follows the style of slow jam singers.
I don’t think there was a single song that I dislike on this album. My favorite ones: “Thinkin Bout You”, “Bad Religion”, and “Forrest Gump” are ballads that reflect on relationships. “Super Rich Kids” tells the story of hedonistic, aimless rich kids. “Crack Rock” tells the story of drug-addled lady friend. “Pyramids” is probably the best song on the album. It is a 9 minute, guitar flavored track that probably mixes seven or eight different genres.
My only complaint is that the album is slow and mellow throughout and could have had a few more upbeat songs. Prince is an idiosyncratic R&B artist, and his 80s albums included lots of upbeat songs. Drake’s album included several club tracks.
To those who say that R&B is dead, this album proves you wrong.