This week’s We Hear is devoted to Frank Ocean’s debut full-length album Channel ORANGE. Frank has been in the news a lot recently after he took to unusual step last week to openly discuss (in an incredibly honest, brave and beautiful post on his Tumblr) his sexuality. The response to his opening up about having fallen in love with a man (he stopped short of saying “I’m gay”) from the urban music world – one long reviled for an intolerant attitude towards non-heterostandard sexualities–has been encouragingly positive. Hopefully it is a sign of sea-change in the industry – however, we’re here to talk music, and Channel ORANGE is as brilliant as his recent announcements have been courageous (and incredibly well-timed for publicity as some have opined). The album is hung around the centrepiece track “Pyramids” that goes from ancient Egypt to modern-day Las Vegas in an epic 10 minutes. It’s amazing and more impressively, isn’t self-indulgent or a drag on the pacing of the album. The songs that surround it are heartfelt, well-produced and stand-up well to repeat listenings. In fact, the album opens up after a few listens, revealing its meanings and complexity. Apart from “Pyramids”, the Earl Sweatshirt feature “Super Rich Kids”, the heartbreaking “Bad Religion”, “Pink Matter” with its standout verse from Andre 3000 and the concluding “Forrest Gump” are choice tracks. You can buy it on iTunes, stream it on your favourite service (Rdio we know has it) or listen to the album in its entirety on Frank Ocean’s Tumblr.
This last weekend, Frank Ocean was at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. His gifts as a songwriter are evident in a live show as are his prodigious vocal talents. His arrangements, as well as his singing, was reminiscent of D’Angelo – however, I feel that his talents as a showman are still maturing. This was by his own admission only his 10th proper show ever and this inexperience was occasionally evident. To be fair, he was hampered by a raucous crowd that would challenge most performers and he showed enough moments of brilliance to indicate that before long he’ll be working the crowds like a pro. I’ll definitely be back to see him. However, the way his career is going its likely to be a stadium show.