“As long as your intentions are solid and about growth and progression and being productive and not being idle, then you’re doing good in my book.” -Frank Ocean
“I think we all change each other’s paths. I don’t know which law idea that is in physics, but I don’t think any of us can live without affecting one another.” -Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean is what some might call a man of mystery. He was one of the more beloved artists of the 2010s despite staying away from the spotlight for the most part. To date, Ocean has released 3 projects, each of which has received widespread acclaim. The middle installation of his trilogy of projects is today’s Musical Training Plan selection: 2012’s Channel ORANGE, a 55 minute nostalgia soaked piece of uniquely Frank Ocean soundscapes which is best described as “alternative R&B”.
Before we go any further, yes I am aware that Blonde is Frank’s superior work AND it fits this month’s theme. I chose Channel ORANGE in Blonde‘s stead because A: I personally prefer Channel ORANGE and find it much less intimidating to write about than Blonde; B: I view Channel ORANGE as the best of Ocean’s projects to introduce somebody to the enigmatic artist which is always a goal of the MTP, and C: Blonde is a much more challenging listening experience than Channel ORANGE, and considering I’ve already subjected you to Miles Davis this week while still keeping some not so poppy music in the chamber for the next 2 days, I thought it only fair to select this album for today. Now that that’s clear, let’s get into it.
Channel ORANGE, like many albums, presents a collection of stories in the form of songs, and while most of them are likely fictionalized, so little is known about Frank Ocean that when it comes to how much of this album is true, your guess is as good as mine. What’s important here is not what is true or false, though. Each song seems to be infused with something personal for Frank, almost like the songs on Channel ORANGE are something of an emotional exercise, a sort of therapy. The album opens on the sounds of a television scanning through channels, a motif which is brought up a few more times on the album. Through this simple opening, Frank presents Channel ORANGE ‘s songs as a collection of unconnected stories, the kinds of which you might find spending the day watching television. The collection of songs on Channel ORANGE are a series of vignettes which might not be directly linked, but all seem to mean something. One of the things that Frank, like many great artists, is able to tap into is the ability to make art which doesn’t have a clear meaning. It’s up to the listener to make of it what what they will. For this reason, among others, Channel ORANGE manages to feel like a very personal album despite being built out of totally unrelated stories.
And of course, Channel ORANGE is just fun to listen to. It’s the home of Ocean’s most popular song to date “Thinkin Bout You” and is altogether the easiest listen of the young artist’s catalogue. Sonically and lyrically the songs are interesting and engaging and manage to give the album a vitality for the entirety of its runtime. I wouldn’t exactly call it a comfort pick, but I’m sure many people use this record as their “Ole’ Reliable” album, so to speak. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Frank’s most potent weapon in his musical arsenal: his voice. Such a great singer, and not only in the technical sense of being able to hit and hold a range of notes while sounding appealing to the ear. Frank is able to convey so much emotion through his vocals which are perfectly paired with each song’s instrumental musical backdrop. He is a subtle artist and Channel ORANGE is a subtle album, and for today, that’s just what the Musical Training Plan needs.
Thanks for reading the blog, if you participate and listen to Channel ORANGE, I hope you love it.
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