Illustration by GREATeclectic

Musings on Frank Ocean’s “Channel Orange”

As 2012 is coming to an end, we find ourselves reminiscing on yet another year that went by all too fast. We remember the things we wanted to forget, we forget the things we wanted to remember, and we acknowledge that which has truly defined the year we are forever leaving behind. As far as music goes, trails have been blazed and territory has been charted that had once been thought unfathomable. Am I going to name all of them? Of course not! You can do your own homework. All I’m saying is, the footprints that have impressed upon the concrete have left their permanent mark; the tangy tingle that tickles our taste buds has fallen fierce to the virgin mouth, stinging to the untouched skin, and piercing to the pure ears that we had once considered well-seasoned. That music by which our culture is morphed has taken a turn; even though we may not be used to it, I catch the hint we’re starting to like it.

So, without further adieu,
With much to say and little to do
Let me tell you about my 2012, musically through and through
As I wipe the sleet out of my eyes
And watch the morning mist leave its daily dew
From Start to End
Whether he’s thinking about me
or Thinking About You
Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange wins the title
and Now takes the cue
#a’thankyou

~

But of course this is my #1 album of 2012! Anyone who knows me knows my undying love for my Franky’O. I just can’t help it. Throughout the past year, his tune has tried its sweet sweet tongue on me many-a-time. His lick has trailed its wet and sticky streak into the pathways of my mind and I have become a victim of the #Orange fever. Woo, I’m getting flustered just talking about it!

Let’s take it back a few months – Ok, July 10, 2012 to be exact. This was the day that good old Channel Orange was officially released. Weeks prior, “Pyramids” had been dropped. I was in Santa Barbara at the time and decided to write an incredibly lustful piece of the more sexual aspect of the song. I had immersed myself in the essence of the 10 minute tale; I wanted to be Cleopatra. I wanted to work at the Pyramid. I had listened so many times that I probably was the Pyramid. Weeks later, my heart was selfishly cracked and slivered in his sexual unraveling, but as a fan, I – of course – came to terms and supported the shift.

Next dropped was “Sweet Life.” I was in San Francisco at the time and the song became my melody. I listened to it in the mornings while getting ready, throughout the day while walking around the city and hopping from train to train, and eventually, I played it the first bright and sunny morning of July 10, 2012 that I made my two-month temporary move to Los Angeles.

In fact, I just so happened to move onto Orange Street (which I later obnoxiously referred to as Channel Orange street). Through the lenses of my Blue Blocker sunglasses, the sepia tint of the sky, the sun, and the all-encircling scenery too blended into the orange glow of the chapter I was stepping into. I didn’t know what to do with myself the first day of my move, nor did I that very first night. As usual, I roamed. I walked. I explored. And later on that night, I found myself running on Fairfax past the Odd Future store, with Nostalgia Ultra’s “Novacane” blasting through my headphones. Ohhh it felt good; a little something like freedom, a little something like loneliness. It was a liberation nonetheless, a new beginning of a short-term stint that seemed to be smooth sailing as far as I was concerned. But just wait, it gets better…

As I’m running, a friend’s text message interrupts the song to notify me that Channel Orange had been released – early! I stopped at Fairfax High School to take a breather and hop on iTunes to download the album that I would later on call my constant companion. After that, the rest was history.

Channel Orange was just too good to be true. For me, it became a lifestyle. There was no way I was letting anything else enter my musical realm. From “Start” to “End” – literally – I was submerged under the melodic Ocean. Every song had weaseled its way into some sort of seemingly defining moment of that time – either that, or I just so happened to press “play”.

There is enough to be said about “Thinking About You” and the heavy strings that sway it along. Then, there’s “Fertilizer”, whose catchy jingle rings more like a concept track than anything else. “Sierra Leone”? “Sweet Life”? “Super Rich Kids”? Even with the interludes, I could go on forever blah-blah-blah-ing away.

To me, though, I find that details can sometimes be a bore. And although Channel Orange is obviously a compilation of very well-thought out, well-executed details, its
intimate-yet-embracing quintessence defines it a classic of today. It speaks from a generation to a generation on all subjects relevant and personal. Lyrically, it strikes all of the key points that can make a grown man fall to his knees, a faithful woman engage in a late night striptease, and a skater punk shut his bloody mouth – even if it’s only for a second.

Nevertheless, it is not what Frank says but instead how he says it that deems Channel Orange a timeless piece. His sense of direction and rhythmic flow accompanied me wherever I went, whether it was “Crack Rock” fueling my euphoric hikes through Runyon Canyon, “Lost” and “Bad Religion” enabling my drown-worthy cry fest along Pacific Coast Highway, or “White” for those simple moments of pure nothingness. His voice seemed to unravel locked emotions and warm isolated voids. Still does. And when I packed my bags and moved down the coast to San Diego, I made sure to play Channel Orange to complete my journey’s soundtrack from start to end. It may be completely corny, but it felt right.

Today, his music sure as hell hasn’t ended for me. I’m still not over Channel Orange and truly, I hope never to be. After practically living by it like a gospel and converting just about every friend and family member to Team Frank – why would I? So, as I look back on music in 2012, nothing stands out to me more than this particular album. Frank Ocean, with the help of his star-studded featured cast of Earl Sweatshirt, John Mayer, Andre 3000, and Tyler, the Creator, personified a generation within a 17 song (give or take a few excerpt breaks and interludes) album and involuntarily personified a place and time in my life. Now that, ladies and gents, is a feat. So if you ask me, Channel Orange was the best album of 2012. It was closest to my heart, as I know the same rings true for all the other Pilot Jones, Forrest Gumps, and Super Rich Kids out there.

The End.

Illustration by GREATeclectic