Rolling Stone (p.68) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "There are echoes of soul forebears on Ocean's first official LP -- Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, Prince -- but his feel for romantic tragedy links him to an older tradition: He's a torch singer."
Entertainment Weekly (p.95) - "CHANNEL ORANGE feels like the bravest act of vulnerability in recent memory....His empathy runs so deep, it hurts."
Billboard (p.52) - "Frank Ocean has quietly become the most unique and progressively minded presence in R&B. His major-label debut, CHANNEL ORANGE is the work of a thoughtful and fearless artist..."
Q (Magazine) (p.106) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "While Ocean's artistic ambition is impressive, it's his haunting candour that really casts a spell."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.95) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "CHANNEL ORANGE is a startlingly ambitious affair; a spectral journey through emotionally empty landscapes that shifts from bass-bunkered confessionals to futuristic digi-soul stompers....[A] rich and complex album."
Personnel: Frank Ocean (keyboards); J. Ryan "Malay" Ho (guitars, brass, keyboards, programming, background vocals); Taylor Johnson, John Mayer , André 3000, Charlie Hunter (guitars); Dave Eggar , Chuck Palmer , Sara Parkins (strings); Francisco Torres, Irvin Mayfield (brass); Pharrell Williams (keyboards, programming); Om'Mas Keith (keyboards, background vocals); Shea Taylor, Jeff Babko (keyboards); Matt Chamberlain (drums, programming); Stacy Barthe, Lalah Hathaway, Raymond Buck, Juliet Buck, Elizabeth Paige, Danielle Miranda-Simms, Crimson Tide Cheerleaders, Auntie Rosie (background vocals).
Audio Mixers: Frank Ocean; J. Ryan "Malay" Ho; Mark "Spike" Stent; Jeff Ellis.
Liner Note Author: Frank Ocean.
Recording information: East West Recording Studios, Hollywood, CA; Henson Recording Studios, Hollywood, CA; Manhattan Sound Recording, New York, NY; San Ysidro, Beverly Hills, CA; Studio For The Talented & Gifted, Los Angeles, CA; the Record Plant, Hollywood, CA; Westlake Recording Studios, Los Angeles, CA.
Photographer: Nabil Elderkin.
Def Jam's contracted edition of Frank Ocean's Nostalgia, Ultra never materialized. The label nonetheless released two of the mixtape's songs as singles. One of them, "Novacane," clashed with everything else on the radio, reached the Top 20 of Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart, and crossed into the Hot 100. The singer's presence spread with appearances on Goblin, 4, Watch the Throne, and The OF Tape, Vol. 2. He then completed this album with Malay, Om'Mas Keith, and Pharrell as his co-producers. Journalists present at June pre-release listening events speculated that some of the lyrics revealed Ocean's bisexuality. Ocean subsequently published a screen shot of a document, dated December 27, 2011, that included details of a crushing romantic relationship with a male. Ocean also revealed that he wrote for the sake of his sanity and credited his inner circle: "I'm sure these people kept me alive, kept me safe." One listen to Channel Orange makes it obvious that he is as free as an artist as he is as a man. The album doesn't have as many slyly powerful hooks as Nostalgia, Ultra, but Ocean's descriptive and subtle storytelling is taken to a higher level. He's up there with Bilal. As easy as it is to listen to Ocean's voice in long stretches -- he's casually expressive -- the number of deep ruminations over slow tempos requires some patience. Even the lone song that could be termed a banger is a ten-minute suite that takes 90 seconds to get on the floor; the song with the widest and most creative scope as well, "Pyramid" shifts from "my black Queen Cleopatra" and ancient Egypt (over swift synth funk) to "Your love ain't free no more" and a strip club (over booming, low-profile slickness). The lighter moments, such as the loose and bright "Sweet Life" and the relatively exuberant "Monks," both of which would be standouts on any N.E.R.D. album, offer more than bright coating, dealing in surrealism and sharp observations that are equally penetrating. On the other end, the most personal song is "Bad Religion," a phenomenal brokenhearted ballad consisting of organ, piano, strings, and handclaps: "This unrequited love/To me it's nothing but a one-man cult/And cyanide in my Styrofoam cup." Everything that falls between, counting the rumbling drug dependency tale "Crack Rock," the snapping/swooning "Pilot Jones," and the longing falsetto shuffle "Thinkin Bout You," is vivid and worthy of complete immersion. ~ Andy Kellman
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