Frank Ocean

Channel Orange (Def Jam)

Phases & Stages

Frank Ocean

Channel Orange (Def Jam)

Usher. R. Kelly. A D'Angelo revival in the works. 2012 is shaping up as quite a year for R&B. Inciting the highest celebration is Odd Future affiliate Frank Ocean and his major-label debut Channel Orange, an ethereal, embattled, and introspective work that puts everything in its right place in exactly the right form. There's a "Start" and there's an "End," and a decided middle in "Crack Rock" that leads into Channel Orange's darker, more truthful half. There's Earl Sweatshirt ("Super Rich Kids"), André 3000 ("Pink Matter"), and even John Mayer on an interlude ("White"), though you'd hardly know it without picking up the liner notes. Then there's Ocean, a relentless, conflicted talent who owns retro soul ("Fertilizer"), bites Mary J. Blige ("Super Rich Kids"), and gets sexual ("Pyramids," "Bad Religion," "Thinkin' Bout You") without straining to fit it all in. It's a headphone masterpiece that bangs on shelf speakers. It's everything. (Tonight's Frank Ocean show at La Zona Rosa, Thursday, July 19, is sold out.)

****

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