Since singer Frank Ocean was warmly welcomed last year with the release of his R&B mixtape “Nostalgia, Ultra,” he has been a burgeoning talent in storage.
The singer has only touched down on occasion to collaborate with fellow crewmembers in Odd Future and pitch in hooks on two tracks on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s album “Watch the Throne.”
With Ocean’s newly released, major-label debut album “Channel Orange,” the 24-year-old has finally given listeners more to chew on and further defined his sound within the album’s span of 17 tracks.
Ocean begins his album with the sound of a television flicking on and a haze of sound coming in. This becomes a thematic recurrence used multiple times throughout the album.
When the album gets past its second interlude and first song “Thinkin Bout You,” it dips in to get cozy and its sonic character reveals itself.
Lazy and quiet production becomes Ocean’s companions as he floats alongside electric guitars, acoustic drums and organs.
Ocean combines elements of contemporary R&B, soul and flowering lyrics in a way that has not reached a radio audience within the past year.
The singer opened production up to Malay and Shay Taylor for the majority of the album, and noticeably had Pharrell produce on “Sweet Life.”
Within the three subjects of drugs, love and money, Ocean paints emotions of empathy, grief, heartache and yearning.
Rarely is the spotlight directed on Ocean’s personal troubles as he disappears into fantasy instead. Tracks play out like scenes of a movie in many cases.
In “Super Rich Kids,” Ocean plays the role of a young person sitting on a rooftop and taking joyrides in his father’s car.
On tracks where Ocean sings about wealth, such as on “Sweet Life,” it is as if he is experiencing all the comfort of having money but is deflated beneath his rich lifestyle.
Ocean switches his narrative up on “Pyramids” by singing about Cleopatra first as an ancient Egyptian, then as a pimp and finally as an unemployed lover.
“Bad Religion” finds Ocean backed by piano and strings and perhaps at his most vulnerable on the album, confessing to a taxi driver about his past love.
“It’s a bad religion to be in love with someone who could never love you,” sings Ocean, giving a prime example of the melancholy he carries throughout “Channel Orange.”
It is hard to pin the sadness that Ocean carries on each song. As a 24-year-old, Ocean shows a concerned maturity. There are not any songs bent on pleasure and none that are present for the sake of partying.
“Pink Matter,” one of the album’s most beautiful and soulful songs, has Ocean opening his voice to its most dramatic reach as he ponders big questions.
Andre 3000 gives a dribbling guest verse about an endeavor with a woman, plays guitar and delivers with his own curling croon.
With the buzz that Ocean has garnered over the past year, he has proven himself capable of making quality music with “Channel Orange.”
The album shows true character and matches pure elements of R&B production with a voice of emotion that connects well with an audience.