Who: Frank Ocean
Hush Comics’ Favorites: “Thinking About You,” “Crack Rock,” “Forrest Gump,” “Lost,” “Pink Matter (featuring Andre 3000)” and “Sweet Life.”
Hush Comics’ Rating:
Frank Ocean, although somewhat of a newcomer, has taken the industry by storm. With the R&B genre in a genuine drought of newcomers over the past few years (excluding Melanie Fiona and Janelle Monae, and maybe another I’ve forgotten to mention), Frank Ocean brings a strong presence in his debut album, Channel Orange.
Ocean had humble beginnings, growing up in New Orleans and forced to Los Angeles after his hometown studio was flooded and looted. He soon networked his way into a songwriting deal, eventually writing jams for John Legend (“Quickly”), Justin Bieber (“Bigger”) and Beyonce (“I Miss You”), not to mention co-writing two tracks on Watch the Throne. Although a huge step, writing for other singers is not what Frank Ocean set out to do. More networking eventually hooked Ocean up with hip-hop group Odd Future (OFWGKTA), a group in which he really is the odd one out. While Tyler, the Creator is an unapologetic, vulgar emcee, Frank Ocean is a swooning and thought-provoking soulster whose sound is very nostalgic of the 90’s greats like Babyface and Musiqsoulchild.
Frank Ocean released his first mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra (found for download and stream here), in February 2011. An album in a mixtape, Nostalgia was exploding with hits like “American Wedding” (sung to the instrumental of “Hotel California” and an instant skyrocket to fame), “Strawberry Swing” and “Novacane.” After his coming out party, Ocean furthered his reach by co-writing and featuring in two tracks on Watch the Throne (“Made in America” and “No Church in the Wild”). The stage was set for Channel Orange and Frank Ocean seemed ready to deliver. The only knock I had on this album is that there are a lot of good songs, but not a lot that I think make up a classic album.
Channel Orange begins with perhaps the best song on the album, “Thinkin Bout You.” It’s a romantic song about infatuation and a baby-making jam, at that. The beats are all melodic and never really seem to distract from or swallow Ocean’s voice and his lyrics hardly ever feel superfluous, which is a big flaw in most current R&B singers. In fact, what makes Frank Ocean compelling is how personal he is in his songs. A lot of controversy recently has been centered around Frank Ocean’s coming out, so I was surprised to see him attack the issue head-on in “Forrest Gump.” While not as vulgar as Tyler, Frank Ocean is just as unapologetic about who he is as a person. He might be a rookie as far as studio albums go, but I think Frank Ocean has it figured out already. Channel Orange was an exceptional album all the way through.