"I need a convertible, a lot of channel orange is convertible music. like a saab convertible," Frank Ocean tweeted on June 20, a day before previewing his debut album, "Channel Orange," at KMA Studios in New York on Thursday night (June 21).
Ocean has a point -- "Channel Orange" (Island Def Jam, July 17) is an excursion in itself. His official debut, which opens with "Thinking About You," gives prominence to his songwriting prowess and sonic versatility, as he intertwines the parallel styles of soul, R&B, jazz and even a bit of funk. Ocean feeds his appetite for different sound types by focusing more on sonics than structure and lacing "Channel Orange" with a mixture of bass lines, electronic synths, keys and flowing melodies. And don't forget: this is Frank's debut album.
The follow-up to last year's lauded "Nostalgia/Ultra" mixtape includes hints of inspiration from legends as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Prince, The Roots and D'Angelo. Still, Ocean doesn't adhere to one sound, nor shape himself into something that people could peg solely to R&B.
Similar to "Nostalgia/Ultra," Ocean connects the album with transitional interludes in which one hears the tampering of a cassette player, video game playing and some as sententious songs themselves.
Lyrically, he's a storyteller. He simultaneously unravels and explores -- himself and those around him -- through a diatribe of the privileged yet insatiable, ("Super Rich Kids," featuring Odd Future's Earl Sweatshirt), soliloquies of heartbreak and abandonment, and confessionals. His falsetto breathes color into the content.
At times, we see Ocean getting lost in the simplicity of beauty, or "domesticated paradise" -- singing "Why see the world when you got the beach?" in what seems to be called "Sweet Life" -- and telling tales of women, from what they bring to how they leave whether one step forward or two steps behind him. "Why I keep trying to keep a grown woman sober?... But I haven't been touched by the dealer. I'm the stoner," Frank Ocean sings on one track.
On one of his most honest songs, which opens with the pluck of a church organ, Ocean finds himself confessing his deepest demons to what sounds to be a taxi driver. "If it brings me to my knees, it's a bad religion," then later, "I can never make them love me."
Ocean then transitions into another dark, intimate cut, reportedly titled "Pleasure," singing, "Close my eyes and fall into you… my god, give me pleasure," before Andre 3000 blesses Frank with two verses. "Models are made for modeling, thick girls are made for cuddling," 3 stacks raps, then later, "I need to hold your hand, you need no other man."
Before closing "Channel Orange" with a lingering taste of slinky, R&B, " Voodoo," Frank Ocean serenades with the soulful, "Forrest Gump.""If this is love? I know it's true. I won't forget you," he sings.