Skip to main content

Guest Review: Nathan Roberts on Frank Ocean


A Meditation on Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE
by Nathan Roberts

By choosing to open his album with the reassuring sound of an iPhone text alert and the original Playstation startup, Frank Ocean sets us at ease. He could have stormed in, as is wont-to-do amongst the stars of contemporary R&B, with his incredible voice and nuanced sound, but we are effortlessly ushered in before the orchestral grandeur of “Thinkin Bout You” kicks in.

Ocean sometimes wears eyewear
For a song that has been floating around online for the last year or so, “Thinkin Bout You” sums up the timeless nature of this album, it’s a song that feels as powerful on this listen as it did the first and greater still with the slight rework his major label debut has afforded to provide. Yet the music, though glamorous, never seems overstated or crass; it is full of beauty.

Despite the hyperbole that has surrounded his relatively sudden rise to fame, it would be too much to expect the pinnacle of recorded music fromchannel ORANGE, especially being his first album proper. Yet Ocean has genuinely created something exemplary of his time and place. I adore this album and so should you, regardless of its imperfections.

Throughout the album, the strongest lyrical themes deal starkly with his own life and are empathetically passionate; that love and life, strictly an individual's own experience, are so intrinsic, honest and open on this album is incredible; he has fully shared his experience with us.

Though undoubtedly possessing a voice that is unarguably timeless and soulful, hell, people think he is this generation’s Stevie Wonder, I can’t help but feel that he has also consciously grounded his music to the now; or, more probable, as a reflection of this period of his life, this time. It's personal.

And in these times of all-consuming social media, where reality and verisimilitude collide, it seems all the more important that a figurehead who is, or at least appears to be, as genuine as Frank Ocean stands ahead of the pack. He is a vocal presence on tumblr and twitter; for the cyber generation, he is one of us.

channel ORANGE stands as one of the biggest moments for the music industry this year, without shadow of a doubt. How else can it be summed up? Storming to number 2 in the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, despite only being available via iTunes, is a massive achievement.

I’d still argue that the moment Radio 1 started playing "Pyramids" in its unashamedly, and brilliantly, long nine minute and fifty six second version during daytime radio, due to listener demand, was the first sign of Frank Ocean’s, now bright, shining star. And if that apathetic outlet can bow down to this masterpiece, I don’t use the term lightly, of progressive R&B, why not you?

Nathan Roberts is currently studying English Literature & Creative Writing at Kingston University. He also has a prolific music blog and scouts for Columbia Records. 
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

AMERICA PSYCHO

According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…

DANGER, MAN

Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…

OSCAR SMOSHCAR

The Oscars - Academy Awards officially - were once huge cultural events - in 1975, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Shirley MacLaineandBob Hope co-hosted, for example - and Best Picture noms included The Conversation and Chinatown. Godfather Part 2 won. Last two years, movies titled Birdman and Spotlight won, and the hosts and those films are retrospectively minor, trifling. This year, some important, resonant films are up for consideration - including Hidden Figures and Moonlight, two favourites of this blog. Viola Davis and Denzel Washington will hopefully win for their sterling performances in Fences. However, La La Land - the most superficial and empty Best Picture contender since Gigi in 1959 (which beat Vertigo) - could smite all comers, and render this year's awards historically trivial, even idiotic.

The Oscars often opt for safe, optimistic films, or safe, pessimistic films, that are usually about white men (less often, white women) finding their path to doing the right thin…