Last time we scribbled about this 23 year old writer for Beyonce and Justin Bieber, the splash size he would make as an artist himself was completely unforeseen. Now, with Channel ORANGE, his new chart erupting album and a face synonymous with single-handedly breaking up the marriage of homophobia and hip hop, Ocean has opened himself up to public criticism and an untapped demographic for fanfare.
LA Times calls his debut “the twentysomething experience in Los Angeles,” but some would argue it as a more transcendent work than that. Yes, he sings with an undeniably beautiful voice of “Super Rich Kids,” over-attentive maids and overly generous parents, but he also sings about wanting a man.
Ever since his Tumblr post describing his love affair with another man, his name has been in headlines every single day from the ‘Calendar’ cover of LA Times to a daily headline in the all-knowing Billboard Bulletin–and basically every music blog in existence. He has been a publicist’s dream: a de-closeting just in time for a week-long approach to his first televised performance on Jimmy Fallon, to an album release only hours after its airing. Leading up to his much anticipated debut release, there have been premature evaluations and skeptical journalists connecting his moment of honesty with his album release date as a publicity scheme. However, Channel ORANGE garnered talk long before he granted his fans access to himself completely. Album teasers like “Pyramids” and “Forrest Gump” grasped our attention as much as his well kept secret.
Channel ORANGE deserves its own coming out party. Sexual preferences and a genre-transforming culture aside, the album is ripe with talent and a soulful delivery unexpected as a part of the profanity-flinging boys of Odd Future. Gems like “Bad Religion,” “Thinkin Bout You,” Super Rich Kids (feat. Early Sweatshirt),” “Lost,” and “Forrest Gump” ride on slow, sensual beats and contrasting strings. That sleek voice skips back and forth from falsetto to talk-rapping, constantly evoking a comparison as a modern-day, hip hop-tainted Stevie Wonder. He is nouveau soul.
He may not be challenging hip hop with a new identity, but then again, he very well may be. Luckily, Channel ORANGE has the ability to overshadow the talk surrounding it and its creator, and simply speak for itself.