CHANNEL ORANGE: 7 YEARS LATER
Looking back at Frank Ocean’s debut album
Frank Ocean’s TV debut on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (2012)
BY STEPHEN ADDANTE
At this point, if you know anything about music, you know who Frank Ocean is. Despite the low-profile that he has maintained throughout the majority of his career, Ocean has become a household name in the music industry. With one of the most unique voices in music, he has garnered widespread acclaim among critics and fans alike over the last 7 years. Today marks the seventh anniversary of his debut album channel ORANGE, so let’s take a quick look back at the iconic album and how we got here.
channel ORANGE was released July 10, 2012
Ocean of course first popped up as a member of the Tyler, The Creator led group Odd Future where he was featured on Tyler’s song “She”. He quickly began to gain notoriety after releasing songs of his own such as “Novacane” and “Swim Good” off of his 2011 mixtape nostaglia,ULTRA. Other unreleased tracks featured on the ‘unofficial’ Lonny Breaux Collection (Ocean’s birth name is Christopher ‘Lonny’ Breaux), also helped Ocean gain some fans. Perhaps one of the biggest moments for Ocean though was his appearance on the Jay-Z and Kanye West record “No Church in the Wild” off of their collaborative album Watch the Throne. This collaboration helped Ocean cross over into the mainstream and introduced fans to the up-and-coming artist.
On April 17th, 2012, Ocean released perhaps the most important single of his career, “Thinkin’ ‘Bout You” (later featured on channel ORANGE) which turned heads and allowed Ocean to get the exposure he needed to make it to the big leagues. A few months later, he made his TV debut on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon where he performed “Bad Religion” also off of channel ORANGE which he released digitally that night, a week prior to its scheduled release date. Accompanied by The Roots, Ocean gave a chilling performance that helped push the album to number 2 on the Billboard 200 and number 1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts.
channel ORANGE gained critical acclaim for its unique sound, storytelling, and writing, covering several topics including love, pain, money, happiness, drugs, sexuality, and religion. The 17 track album came in at just under an hour and featured appearances from Earl Sweatshirt, John Mayer, and André 3000. Ocean’s debut was a major success and earned him Album of the Year at the Soul Train Awards and Best Urban Contemporary Album at The Grammy’s (as well as nominations for Album of the Year, Best New Artist, and Record of the Year) where he also performed “Forrest Gump”. In addition to this, Ocean performed standout tracks “Thinkin’ ‘Bout You” and “Pyramids” on Saturday Night Live later in the year, once again in particularly memorable fashion.
After the release and promotion of the album, Ocean seemingly fell of the face of the earth (barring the odd Tumblr post) as he did not release any music until 2016. However, this only led to more anticipation and intrigue for the quiet singer. In February 2016, Ocean was finally heard from on a short interlude on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo, giving fans a glimmer of hope. Hype for Ocean’s sophomore album increased in July of that year as there were rumours and cryptic indications that a new album would be releasing that month. The album did not release in July, instead, a project titled Endless was live-streamed on Apple Music on August 19th which served to break Ocean out of his contract with Def Jam. While some enjoyed the project, it was not much more than an out for Ocean, allowing him to release his second studio album Blonde independently under his new label Boys Don’t Cry. Like channel ORANGE, Blonde gave fans what they were searching for and was very well received among critics as well.
Frank Ocean has been one of the most intriguing artists in recent memory and has really separated himself from his contemporaries despite his small catalog. Throughout the last 7 years, he has not only created and had success with his own sound, but he has inspired a whole generation of artists to do the same. channel ORANGE serves as a landmark in music and is one of the most impressive debut albums of all-time.