Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Some immediate thoughts on Frank Ocean's album

I'm currently listening to Frank Ocean's new album Channel Orange, which was stealth released on iTunes overnight, and which is streaming in full on his official website this morning.

So far, I'm about a quarter of the way through and it's already feeling pretty special. The lazy easy comparison is Prince - not because anything sounds like Raspberry Beret, but because of the dizzying roulette wheel of pop culture references. It's the same trick that made The Beastie Boys or Beck or Outkast sound so fresh - cherry-picking a billion unconnected influences to create a sound that's irrevocably, unmistakably yours, and yours alone.

What's particularly refreshing about Ocean is the way he's constantly set his own agenda. I'm not just talking about the massively over-analysed note posted on his blog last week, in which he talked about his love for another man ("I don't have any secrets I need kept any more"). But also the way he gave away his first, aborted album online for free; the way his name doesn't appear on the cover of Channel Orange; the fact that he's built up a massive buzz without a flashy music video or an all-consuming media blitz.

In other words, people are excited about Frank Ocean's album because they're excited about the music - and that can only be a good thing.

Intrigued? Check out his performance from Jimmy Fallon's chat show last night (his first ever TV appearance) and, if you've got time, have a listen to the album on his website. As he says in the lyrics to Sweet Life, "the best song wasn't the single".

Frank Ocean - Bad Religion

PS: If you're a fan of "physical" CDs, you have to wait til 23rd July for the album.

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