Review: Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

After a short intro ChannelOrange goes straight into a banger “Thinkin Bout You”, a brilliant way to start proceedings. It was strange that the song was due to appear on Bridget Kelly’s album (see “Thinking About Forever”), she even released her version online. Frank later had a change of heart and set the wheels in motion to release his version of the song.

The album’s penultimate song “Forrest Gump” is one of the best examples of Frank Ocean’s brilliance with the use of Forrest Gump as a metaphor, “Forrest Gump/ you run my mind boy.” Channel Orange is a concept album and the story comes 360 with “Forrest Gump” picking up where “Thinkin Bout You” left off.

“Fertilizer” is a short piece of magic, with lyrics that save this from being something to be skipped:

I’ll take bullshit if that’s all you got
Some fertilizer”

Frank Ocean’s lyrical mastery shines on “Sierra Leone”. He tells a story of how a man goes from an average teenage relationship, to developing deep feelings for his girlfriend to having a daughter with her. The production is perfect – good enough to get your head bopping while providing the perfect backdrop for Frank’s story. Sheer brilliance.

“Not Just Money” leads into “Super Rich Kids” and while the two do relate, the former isn’t necessarily necessary. “Super Rich Kids” adds more detail to the story which “Sweet Life” began:

“You’ve had a landscaper and a house keeper since you were born
The starshine always kept you warm
So why see the world, when you got the beach
Don’t know why see the world, when you got the beach
The sweet life”

“Super Rich Kids” is a personal song and quite appropriately Ocean is Frank about his upbringing: “My silver spoon has fed me good, a million one, a million cash.” Earl Sweatshirt’s lazy flow on his verse doesn’t help to make his verse the easiest to follow, but a close listen (or peak at the lyrics) will help fill in the gaps and show that Earl hasn’t lost the skill he showed on early Odd Future releases.  This is the beginning of the album’s dark drug themed section.

“Pilot Jones” begins Frank Ocean stating that he’s “Ice Cold” which gave me the impression that this was the song that featured Andre 3000, oh what a disappointment. That track “Pink Matter” doesn’t come until towards the end of the album (had a I taken a look at the track list I would have avoided this!). This song lets the listener deeper into Frank Ocean’s world and he is indeed ice cold:

“We once had things in common
Now the only thing we share is the refrigerator
Ice cold, baby, I told you, I’m ice cold (ice cold!)
You out here flyin’ high (high!)
Go head, fly that thing!
High! High!
But fly alone”

Once you get over what Frank is singing about on “Crack Rock”, the way in which he tells the story of an addict can be enjoyed. The world of an addict is never nice and this is evident in the song too:

“Hitting stones in glass homes
You’re smoking stones in abandoned homes
You hit them stones and broke your home”

“Pyramids” is brilliant from start to finish – yes all ten minutes of it. Another story brilliantly told by Frank Ocean.

“Lost” is another of the album’s best tracks and sounds like it should be a future single on first inspection. However rather than being about a girl, the song is infact an incredibly well told story about the manufacturing of narcotics. The fact that the next song is “White” makes this even more evident.

Considering Frank’s lyrical mastery, it is perhaps fitting that besides Earl Sweatshirt and John Mayer, Andre 3000 is one of the album’s few featured artists.

Frank Ocean is a good brilliant great story teller and Channel Orange is undeniable proof. The way in which each song leads into the next is one of the things that makes this so enjoyable. There is even an argument that could be raised to say that this is a prequel to Nostalgia/Ultra (see “End” and then listen to Nostalgia/Ultra’s “StreetFighter”).



Simply put: this is the best album I have heard this year to date and it’s going to take something epic to better this.

To view a guide to Best In New Music’s Album review rating system click here.

Avoid | Stream | Recommend

Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange is available to buy now on iTunes UK and iTunes USChannel Orange is also available to stream on Spotify now.