“Orange reminds me of the summer I first fell in love,”. Considering the journey to release material via a label – Nostalgia, Ultra, the personal comparisons to Richie Tenenbaum, the words of inspiration including a nod to Robert Frost – the 24-year-old songwriter’s reasoning for his choice in artwork is a firm liner on Channel Orange. Whereas debuts provide an introduction to an artist, Frank Ocean steps out of the studio a storyteller, a writer who can use the warped echo of a Playstation One and the zoned out conclusion of lucid romance to start and stop a record that recalls California kids, forbidden joys and the vivid accent to love. This is where his taste for being dynamic severs. Instead of inflating a rush of what pop music calls itself in 2012, Ocean reverts to gripping sounds – electro blues (“Lost”), sensual waves of soul (“Pilot Jones”) and even thugged out jazz sessions (“Crack Rock”) – that dust off more noir than glitz. They’re not clean but the melodramatic cases they come in prevent interludes from irritating the transition between stark contrasts and gentle falsettos and croons that forever lay in detailed narratives.
In a way, Channel Orange is maturity feeding on youth. It at time mirrors contemporary R&B and neo-soul at their peaks, but Frank’s inventive thesises are what scar. On “Bad Religion”, his late-night confession to a taxi driver wraps around the yearning and merciless nature of unqreuited love that’s like “cyanide in a styrofoam cup”. On “Forrest Gump”, desire and it’s druggy effects play out like a film and buried in “Pink Matter”, various idealogies stab at each other while the track’s sexual underline plays a different tune when the bass closes the door. Ocean’s voice flirts with melodies and eardrums in both ends of Channel Orange but it’s the album’s intimate flashbacks that scream the loudest, in a fixed tone of a classic. They rip personal thoughts of being torn, dishevelled and helpless and overwhelm like a rush of blissful euphoria to the head. It’s not wise to stroll through heartbreak as love is an ancient yet poisonous drug, but why stay where its safe when you can drown in the attraction of the deep end?
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