Frank Ocean performed Channel Orange track “Bad Religion” on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon on Monday, and also surprised fans by dropping his debut solo LP digitally, on iTunes — a full week ahead of its scheduled release date — at midnight. Given the singer’s recent online revelation that he had a relationship with a member of the same sex when he was 19, there’s naturally a lot of interest and curiosity surrounding his album. And the good news for Ocean is that most reviewers seem to conclude that his first offering more than holds up to all the press its inevitably getting.
Head below for our roundup of Channel Orange reviews, but keep in mind that several of them were done spur of the moment, given the unexpected release of of Ocean’s record 12 hours ago.
:: Entertainment Weekly gives the album a B+: “If Southern California needs an avant-R&B soundtrack, let this be it: Ocean’s hypnotic major-label debut plays like an indie movie, with songs about sun-faded palm trees, cokeheads in Polo sweats, and strippers in Cleopatra makeup. (Think Drive by way of baby-maker-pop maestro Maxwell.)”
:: AllHipHop.com wades through the controversy and looks to the music: “Frank Ocean has placed himself above genre borders and identity labels with Channel Orange. This is not summer time music, nor deep music, nor soul music, nor weird music, nor gay music. This is great music.”
:: The Guardian notes, “For now, the best tribute you can pay Channel Orange is that, while it plays, you forget about the chatter and just luxuriate in a wildly original talent. The whys and wherefores of Frank Ocean’s sexuality seem completely irrelevant. Which is, of course, just as it should be.”
:: Gigwise isn’t quite as smitten: “Frankly, an album’s worth of ‘Bad Religion’ and it’s successor, ‘Pink Matter,’ featuring Andre 3000 — which is equally arresting — would have worked well. A shame, then, that Ocean decided to fill Channel Orange with R&B cliché, jaded nu-soul rhythms and half-finished ideas. It’s well worth persevering with Channel Orange; Frank Ocean is clearly a man possessing a talent worth paying attention. Let’s hope he shows the same bravery and honesty in his music as he has done with his private life, made public.”
:: Stereogum offers this in the site’s “Premature Evaluation” of Ocean’s LP: “The music here is luxurious and reserved; it bends and swells in ways that don’t immediately grab attention, and even the John Mayer guitar solos fit into the greater whole. When Ocean does reach out to other pieces of music, as when he sings a snatch of Mary J. Blige’s ‘Real Love’ on ‘Super Rich Kids,’ it feels natural to the song — like its characters are seizing on the one thing they can find that actually expresses how they feel.”
:: MTV observes, “There are few guests on Channel Orange: Andre 3000 shows up on ‘Pink Matter,’ John Mayer on ‘White’ and OF’s Earl Sweatshirt gives a Densely packed performance on ‘Super Rich Kids.’ Pharrell Williams lends a production hand on ‘Sweet Life,’ and while the chord progression is signature Neptunes, Skateboard P falls right in line with Ocean’s mood, laying a jazzy sound bed while Frank explores a careless existence with equal parts jealousy and skepticism.”
:: Tale Tela cuts to the chase for many: “Perfectly in tune with his recent stir in the hip-hop world following the revelation of his first love affair being with a man, Ocean as we already have gathered isn’t afraid to explore his sexual side and escapades whether it is with men or women. Letting the cat out of the bag is the final song of the album, ‘Forrest Gump’ which openly talks about a young infatuation with a boy.”
:: The Lantern adds, “Channel Orange is sexy in a way that I would visualize late nights in the city in the ‘80s were. That’s just how it feels. ‘Sierra Leone’ is a good example… I haven’t been this moved by an album since West’s 2010 magnum opus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”
:: The Washington Post sums it up with this: “At 24, Ocean shows a sure-footed confidence that took many of his forebears years to summon. But his songwriting chops shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been following this guy’s young career. ”