channel ORANGE

A host of featured artists—including John Mayer, André 3000 and Pharrell Williams—have jumped at the chance to collaborate with Frank Ocean on his first studio album, channel ORANGE. The 25-year-old Louisiana-bred R&B vocalist whose heart-rending falsetto first garnered acclaim with his debut mixtape, 2011’s Nostalgia, Ultra, has refined his straight-forward storytelling approach—Auto-Tuned in the studio to perfection, of course—and set it to an ample collection of infectious beats, each song a pastiche of a very personal nature. There’s a torch song (“Thinkin’ Bout You”), a soulful romp perhaps addressing the temporality of life (“Fertilizer”) and, with stunning emotion and perhaps candid self-reflection, a recollection of addiction on “Crack Rock” (really, Ocean sings these two words repeatedly with unbelievable sincerity and conviction). “Super Rich Kids” is a streetwise anthem—backed by an ancient Hammond drum machine and the piano riff from Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets”—that sounds a plea to the ultra-upper class, with Ocean singing: “Too many joy rides in daddy’s Jaguar/ Too many white lies and white lines/ Super rich kids with nothing but loose ends/ Super rich kids with nothing but fake friends.” A fine addition to the Def Jam canon.