If green is the colour of envy and blue is the colour of sadness, orange must be the colour of loneliness if judging by channel ORANGE. But the loneliness is not in the form of a broken relationship or a breakup but rather loneliness made apparent through the imagery that both the lyrics and the music convey – a self-appointed loneliness. The way in which the themes are displayed are akin to standing in the middle of a crowded cocktail bar with not a single person to talk to. While this record by Frank Ocean features several guests – André 3000, Earl Sweatshirt, Tyler, The Creator and John Mayer on guitar – neither take the spotlight off of Frank and rather work as supporting roles, quietly easing in and sneaking out again.
Album cover for channel ORANGE by Frank Ocean
Musically, the entire record is minimal, even if the lyrics are overflowing. While the songs are contained over light rhythmic, sometimes hypnotic beats, Frank himself is the centre the entire way through. Within the secluded walls of the record, Frank sings of desire on Thinkin’ ‘Bout You, chances missed on Forrest Gump and drug dependancy on Crack Rock. In one of the record’s most stunning tracks, Bad Religion, it all comes together with the true context that show just how alone he is as, with nobody else to turn to, he reveals all to a taxi driver. “Be my shrink for the hour/Leave the meter running/It’s rush hour.” On that song, he reveals “I could never make him love me,” while questioning everything he’s believed in and questioning himself. “Only bad religion/could have me feeling the way I do.”
While the use of certain gender pronouns in several of the songs could have created some questions of their meaning, co-producer Malayattributed them as being for creative purposes rather than first-hand experiences. However, Frank revealed several weeks prior to the record’s release that he had had feelings for another man. This piece of news created buzz across the internet which is indicative of just how far he has set himself from his musical peers. Few critics have accused him of revealing that piece of himself for attention though looking back, perhaps he had to to ensure the lyrics of several of the tracks earned the right meaning rather than an unnecessary focus on specific words.
channel ORANGE gives the R&B genre some much needed depth and variation that could help introduce it to the next generation. In addition to the revealing and sensitive lyrics, the songs themselves take unexpected and unconventional turns. Pyramids is a 9 minute opus of a song that goes smoothly from R&B to Electro to a grooving dance beat that has rightfully received respectful comparisons to Prince. The song starts off telling about the historical elegance of Cleopatra before moving into a story told about a pimp who falls in love with one of his workers.
The production on channel ORANGE pays attention to the detail needed to capture the mood of the record. The delicate reverb on the snare-like sound in Pink Matter show only more of the overwhelming desolation that Frank faces. While the record picks up more in the second half, the entire thing is worthy of the accolades it is sure to earn in the coming awards season.
2. Thinkin’ ‘Bout You
4. Sierra Leone
5. Sweet Life
6. Not Just Money
7. Super Rich Kids [featuring Earl Sweatshop]
8. Pilot Jones
9. Crack Rock
12. White [featuring John Mayer]
14. Bad Religion
15. Pink Matter [featuring André 3000]
16. Forrest Gump
17. End / Golden Girl [featuring Tyler, The Creator]