A few weeks ago Frank Ocean made waves by declaring his first true love was a man; mere days after that one of the best R&B albums I’ve listened to in a long time dropped to the masses. Ocean built up his reputation working with Watch the Throne, John Legend, Brandy and the rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All whose content doesn’t bode well with folks in the gay community or most human rights groups. Yet on his second album Ocean bursts out with smooth jams that will make you turn the lights down, break out some candles and shut the shades or surf for something better to watch.
The album is based around the concept of watching television and flipping through the channels to find something to watch to occupy your mind while you veg out on the couch. The interludes come out as commercials foreshadowing what the next song will be about, preparing you in a way. Ocean is up front and confessional in a way that takes you off guard because the beats aren’t intrusive but his voice just lulls you through. There are guest spots by Andre 3000, John Mayer, Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt. With some programming by Pharrell Williams, this album has a stellar line up.
Finding a physical copy of this album has proved to be a pain, so I had to break down then get an MP3 version to listen to, and after plenty of searching I was able to track down a CD at the Best Buy in Concord. The lengths at which I will go to track down a CD are pretty crazy. Do you need more convincing about this one? I would suggest: “Sweet Life”, “Thinkin’ Bout You”, the epic “Pyramids”, “Forrest Gump”, “Monks” and “White”. He’s honest about his surroundings, life and the people he interacts with on a daily basis. There is plenty to pull here from the first listen to the 10th listen, and the confessional nature of the album makes you wonder if you are listening to journal entries. When he sings “Sierra Leone” it sounds much better than when Kanye West did earlier last decade.
This album was a surprise and a revelation to hear. In 10 years, when people start to make lists of albums that defined this decade, I hope that this one is lurking as close to number one as possible. Ocean ranks up there with D’Angelo, Prince, Marvin Gaye, Maxwell and a long list of others. Not many R&B artists are making albums like this anymore and if they do you don’t hear about them as much, which is a shame.