Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Album review: Channel Orange - Frank Ocean

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Frank Ocean. Photo / Supplied
Frank Ocean. Photo / Supplied

This 24-year-old New Orleans' native has written songs for John Legend, Justin Bieber and Beyonce; and collaborated with Jay-Z, Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and Odd Future. And now with his debut album, Channel Orange, he's made a statement.

Not only is his prodigious talent clear, it's also different. The tracks aren't as mainstream or "radio-friendly" as one might imagine (even though he's got Pharrell and Andre 3000 lending a hand). Ocean is happy to let the tracks breathe with spacious soundscapes between the hooks, and there's a beguiling fragility and sense of unease to the production, along with a sense of adventure. These ain't regular club anthems, they're thought-provoking. But that's not the only significant difference. Ocean recently declared he's bisexual and that declaration is reflected in the lyrical content. R&B and hip-hop is often piled with references to lips, hips, skin, and Ocean's songs are notable for their lack of body-part references, for any sexual objectification.

First single Thinking About You is a beautifully tender love song that's almost genderless, and his "baby girl" reference on Sierra Leone is actually to a baby.

And that's not his only deconstruction of traditional hip-hop culture - Super Rich Kids makes a few strong observations, and Sweet Life is a great summer jam, but with the refrain "why see the world, when you've got the beach", he's definitely not afraid to ridicule.

Stars: 4.5/5
Verdict: The new young R&B contender

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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