Let me just say how irritating it was to find the video for “Pyramid” to put at the beginning of this story LOL I don’t know why the good folks over at Blonded, don’t want us to have access to one of the greatest music videos of all time. However, I was able to find it, but if it ends up getting deleted, just know I tried lol. On to Franklin.
Note: Frank Ocean’s name in my head is Franklin Ocean. Please don’t come at me crazy for calling him Franklin lol it’s all a inside joke with myself.
You love Frank Ocean. I love Frank Ocean. We all love us some Franklin Ocean. When he drops a project, we’re all there to witness its greatest, because who really knows when he’s gonna release a new project. It’s that way now, and it was the same a few years back, when Frank dropped his debut album channel ORANGE during the heat of July 2012. I was 15 at the time and at my peak Odd Future fan-ship. I loved how different Frank’s sound was compared to the tradition jokey-jokey, hip hop heavy, “horrorcore”-centered vibes of Tyler and his friends (though I still LOVED Tyler and his friends…but mostly Tyler lol). Frank’s music talked to us about love and nostalgia; his music made sex and passion look like it was a direct creation of Mother Nature herself. His music showed us what it looked like to lose someone or something that you really care(d) about. His vocals were always solid, despite the room for growth.
Sensei went quiet then violent
And we sparred until we both grew tired
Cotton candy, Majin Buu
Dim the lights and fall into you, you, you
My God, giving me pleasure
Pleasure, pleasure, pleasure
Pleasure over matter
What if the sky and the stars are for show
And the aliens are watching live
From the purple matter?
Around the time Franklin dropped channel ORANGE, he also dropped his open letter telling us (or himself) about his first love. The vulnerability of him expressing his love for another guy, while simultaneously taking control of his narrative by telling us himself before all the speculation and gossip started, was admirable. He told us about other things too – not everything (the sacred stayed with who was worthy of hearing it), but we got to know Frank better than we’d known him before. I wasn’t old enough to really REALLY understand how huge of a moment that was both for Frank and in music (ESPECIALLY HIP HOP AND R&B) in general, but as my love for music grew, so did my understanding of how much of a POWER MOVE that was for him. I actually just re-read the letter for the first time as an adult, and it’s….just so…gosh!
There are some truly amazing moments on this project. The opening track places us fully in Frank’s world through the portal of a television; the remastered “Thinkin’ Bout You” and the beautiful strings at the beginning (I’ll always be amazed that Frank wrote the track for someone else); the P R O D U C T I O N on “Sweet Life” from Pharrell (those HORNS that back the chorus and the keyboard backing the verses!); the “hot link” line from “Not Just Money” (if you’ve never had a hot link you don’t get the accuracy lol) and the overall message of the connection between money and happiness/security/SURVIVAL. Earl Sweatshirt’s verse on “Super Rich Kids” is perfection (the “We are the Xanny-gnashing / Caddy-smashing, bratty ass / He mad, he snatched his daddy’s Jag / And used that shit for batting practice” lines GO OFF). The BRIDGE on “Crack Rock” is so so g o o d.
And then we get to the absolutely BEAUTIFUL back half of the project. Pyramids is always a winner – that switch up for the second half of the song! Also John Mayer’s guitar solo!!!!!!! And the song evokes such vivid visuals, especially when you add the music video to the mix. “Lost” feels like summer days; “White” feels like summer nights. We really just DON’T deserve the production on Monks – the harmonies!!!!!!! And then “Bad Religion,” “Pink Matter,” and “Forrest Gump” are just *chef’s kiss x4* THE STRINGS ON “PINK MATTER” ARE THE BEST THING ON THIS PROJECT. DON’T @ ME!!!! And then the project ends so so beautifully with “End” and the surprised of Tyler the Creator on “Golden Girl.”
Plus, Frank really pulls out all the stops with the multitude of sounds on this project. He moves through electro-pop, jazz, R&B, hip hop with ease. It is one of the least debut album-sounding album’s I’ve ever heard. Frank just makes it sound so easy!
I really could go on and on about this project. I’m listening to it as I work through this story and it just DOESN’T AGE. It’s coming up on the 8th anniversary of this project in a couple of months, and it sounds like it just came out last Friday. And though Frank really had the game messed up when he had us watch him build those steps for DAYS for Endless (2016), Franklin Ocean is always a winner in my heart. And so is channel ORANGE. And that’s what makes it one of my favorites of all time!
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