“Channel Orange” is the first music album of a young American rapper Frank Ocean. It was released in July 2012. The album contains seventeen songs, five of them, namely “Thinking Bout You,” “Pyramids,” “Sweet Life,” “Lost,” and “Super Rich Kids,” were previously released as singles. The album received mostly positive reviews from critics. The latter emphasized that, in the lyrics of his songs, Ocean managed to masterfully combine personal experience with urgent social problems and, in such a way, to demonstrate how multifaceted and dramatic human lives can be.
The title of the album has an important symbolic meaning for the singer. Ocean explains that it relates to such a phenomenon as synesthesia. Synesthetes are people whose cognitive system functions differ from that of most people since particular triggers stimulate several sensory systems simultaneously. In particular, they may see the colors of numbers or associate seasons with a specific smell. As for the title of the album, orange here is a color with which Ocean associates the happiest summer of his life when the singer fell in love for the first time. Still, Ocean’s album is not only about love and romance. It is, rather, a mosaics made of the singer’s memories about the events and people that produced an immense impression on him. In particular, the first and the last but one songs of the album, “Thinking Bout You” and “Forrest Gump” focus on the problem of unrequited love. In fact, when the persona feels unwanted for the first time, it becomes a moment when he understands that life is not a bed of roses and decides to shift his attention from his personal tragedies to those of other people.
The song “Fertilizer” that is a cover of James Fauntleroy’s work serves as an introduction to a new chapter of Ocean’s album – a chapter that is full of pain and absurd. In the third track titled “Sierra Leone,” Ocean touches upon the problem of unintended teenage pregnancy and the need for young people to grow up. The persona, who is a future father, realizes he is not ready to be a parent, but he has to learn to take responsibility for his actions. Besides, in this song, as well as in the track “Pink Matter,” the persona describes the physical pleasure of having sex with a woman. The songs “Sweet Life” and “Super Rich Kids” unveil the lives of the gilded youth who live in an artificial paradise that has nothing in common with the real world and real pleasures. These children know nothing about the problems of others, have fake friends, and have a constricted outlook. Meanwhile, the song “Not Just Money” seems to be an address to the wealthy people motivating them to live full lives and not measure everything by money only. The songs “Pilot Jones,” “Crack Rock,” and “Lost” focus on the lives of drug addicts and suppliers and demonstrate how people may lose everything because of drugs – their friends, lovers, morals, their whole lives. More than that, they make other innocent people suffer and risk their freedom for them. Besides, the song “Pyramids” is a unique work that demonstrates the changes in the lives of Black people since the time the latter inhabited their native lands till the time they were brought to the United States. In particular, Ocean emphasizes that women have lost their dignity and have become victims who are abused and disrespected. In the song “Monks,” Ocean also shares his impressions about his tour and claims that he has become an idol for many people who are ready to worship him. Besides, in “Bad Religion,” the singer touches upon the problem of religion, comparing it to unrequited love. Still, in the final track of the album, the persona finally finds his love and expresses hopes for a happy future. In such a way, within just seventeen songs, Ocean manages to tell about a considerable part of his life and the lessons he has learned during this time.
The album “Channel Orange” deserves attention for several reasons. First of all, since it is a debut album, it reflects Oceans’ original artistic style. In comparison to many famous artists who create music “for sale,” Ocean does it for his audience, though it may be not huge, and it makes his works more personal and emotional. Moreover, Ocean experiments with different styles and instruments, which allows him to create a unique sounding in each track. Third, the album reveals many details from the life of the singer and enables one to understand the personality of the latter better. Besides, most songs from the collection are characterized by deep psychologism and numerous allusions to movies and popular songs that will make the process of listening not only pleasant but also highly involving. Finally, in his album, Ocean raises a chain of social problems that are especially urgent for young people who just try to find their way in life. Ocean tries to persuade them that, no matter how hard life is, there is always a way out, a chance to be happy.
It goes without saying that, like any other album, Frank Ocean’s “Channel Orange” evokes a variety of emotions in different people. Some music devotees will like the combination of different music styles, such as R&B, pop-soul, and electro-funk, while others will pay more attention to the lyrics and the emotions it provokes. Though the topics raised by Ocean in most songs are somewhat controversial, while listening to the album, one does not have any heavy, depressive feelings. On the contrary, light music and Ocean’s fast manner of rapping makes one feel that any problem can be solved. Ocean is the voice of the whole generation that makes mistakes but learns to correct them.