Tuesday, July 17, 2012
This is probably one of the most hyped albums of 2012. Frank Ocean is a neo-soul/R&B singer and this is his debut album with Def Jam. He's been getting a lot of buzz the past couple of years thanks to some singles, a free mixtape (Nostalgia, Ultra) and a few guest spots (most notably with Kanye West and Jay-Z on Watch The Throne). He's also a member of hip-hop collective OFWGKTA, better known as Odd Future. The group has been huge in the underground hip-hop scene for years, and Frank is easily one of the most talented members.
Despite his smooth tenor and his interesting melodies, I honestly think he's got one of the weaker voices in his genre. Put a gun to my head if you want, but hear me out. In this lane you've got people like The Weeknd, The Dream, Raheem Devaughn, Anthony Hamilton, even R. Kelly you could arguably place here. They can all out-sing him for the most part. They have more range in their voice, they can all belt out notes when necessary. So in my opinion, he's got some stiff competition.
I'll say this right now though: Frank Ocean is at his best when things are simple. The first song on here, "Thinkin Bout You" was actually released a year ago and is arguably Frank Ocean's biggest song. But the production to the song was very lo-fi, so the only redeemable thing about the song to me was Frank's falsetto. This time around, the production has been upped and Frank put some reverb on his voice to make it soar. It's one of those songs that makes you feel like laying in bed, and thinking about that special person as you stare at the ceiling of your room with the lights off. Frank sing-talks his way through the verses, but the chorus is what sets the mood and is just pure bliss to listen to. The song is incredibly simple still, but I much prefer this version to the original posted a year ago.
Although, I think I should specify about Frank when his songs are "simple". Some of these songs, like "Sierra Leone" just don't feel complete. When I look at the lyrics to some songs, it's like the thoughts are disjointed or incomplete. The song references having a kid when you really haven't finished growing up yourself. Its a great topic for a song, but the way Frank Ocean does it feels very skeletal. There's no substance to the lyrics. It doesn't show a story. It just tells you what happens, with no emotion or passion. That's one thing that a lot of the songs are missing here: fire.
When Frank Ocean sings, he hits all the notes. He's always on pitch, but there isn't anything more to it. There isn't any fire to the notes he sings sometimes, which is why I like him more when it's his intention to make a song "simple".
The only occurrence where things aren't very simple, and it all works out is on the next track "Sweet Life". It's got some nice jazz keys and bass that sound oh so sweet. It actually reminds me a bit of something off Beyonce's last album. But it's basically a song where Frank is in a relationship with someone who has it all, but still they want more. I'm sure there are gonna be tons of Facebook statuses quoting the lyrics here.
"Super Rich Kids" has a similar topic but Frank takes a more satirical spin on it. It's basically singing the "rich kid blues". In the background through out the song you can hear what sounds like adults arguing in the background. Earl Sweatshirt's verse on the song is kinda nice, although it is nowhere near his best verse. Other than this stuff, there isn't much going back to on this song. Other than the fact the song is a satire, I wouldn't consider it a pleasure to listen to.
Frank's almost-10 minute long "Pyramids" is definitely worthy of a listen or two. I'll be honest and say I'm only a fan of the first half of it. It sounds like a mix between Janelle Monae and The Weeknd. It's experimental, but catchy. The story of the song explores a commanding woman and prostitution in Las Vegas. It doesn't get very deep and doesn't exactly justify the fact that it is ten minutes long though. The last minute and a half of the song is just some synths and a muddy guitar being played very sloppy. I have no idea why that was kept in the mix.
The last three songs on this album(Bad Religion, Pink Matter, Forrest Gump) are really interesting to me. All for different reasons. Bad Religion is the only song in this album where you can feel Frank's pain and agony. I believe every word he sings. Pink Matter is a Baby-maker, for sure. It's so smooth and it has Andre 3000. Is there any rapper out there that can rap about love better? I dare you to think of one. The last song, Forrest Gump is unique. Frank is singing about a man that he has feelings toward, but you can't tell if he's ACTUALLY singing about Forrest Gump, or someone with the same characteristics as Forrest. The instrumentals are also incredibly simple, but they just...work.
The other songs on here aren't anything special to me. They just seem pretty mediocre honestly. I just find them pretty forgettable. I should also mention there are about 5 or 6 interludes on this album, including the beginning and end. This explains the little joke of mine at the top. They don't really serve any point other than being breaks between songs. Which isn't that great of a purpose anyway.
I wanted to like this album a lot more than I did. Frank Ocean is a great artist, don't get me wrong. This album is definitely progression for him. But I don't see myself listening to much of it later on and I don't think it's worth a buy. Although I would say to listen yourself and find the tracks that you like.
FAVE TRACKS: THINKIN BOUT YOU, SWEET LIFE, BAD RELIGION, PINK MATTER
LEAST FAV TRACKS: SIERRA LEONE, PILOT JONES