I’ve always shied away from R&B, telling myself I didn’t have enough rhythm, or blues for that matter, to really understand the genre. Plus, I’m a white woman. My teen years were spent listening to Sarah McLachlan, one Coldplay album consumed my time in college, and now, in my later 20s and very early 30s (my age shall remain nameless), I’ve semi-widely broadened my interests to include more indie, Rock n’Roll, and Folk. But still no R&B. That was, until I discovered Frank Ocean.
His name is nothing if not a buzz word of late, but I cannot claim any credit for taking interest. My boyfriend introduced me to his latest album Channel Orange. And then suddenly, his name was everywhere, followed closely by rave reviews. Not only for his music, but for his brave move in the Hip Hop and R&B culture: coming out. Realizing this man has a lot to say, I find myself consistently wanting to listen. In the accompanying letter to Channel Orange, Ocean wrote to fans and supporters:
“Whoever you are, wherever you are…I’m starting to think we’re a lot alike. Human beings spinning on blackness. All wanting to be seen, touched, heard, paid attention to.”
Ocean’s voice has been heard and his music has received credit where credit is due. Channel Orange is broad and sweeping; tackling sex, love, money, entitlement and drugs. But this music is not just for one culture or one people. These all-encompassing themes are woven into a well-written and complex tapestry that asks more questions and raises more eyebrows than it gives answers to. Not only are the lyrics finely crafted, but Ocean has some serious Stevie Wonder-esque vocals, and a foundation built in the music industry writing songs for pop phenoms Justin Bieber, John Legend, and Beyonce…just to name a few of his credentials. Ocean soulfully pleads with us to examine our problems and cultural inconsistencies, and this album is proof of the profound beauty that can result from the struggle we call life.
For more exposure to Ocean’s soulful vocals, check out his SNL performance: