Frank Ocean is (probably) BACK. Four long years after his only commercial solo album, two years since we heard his new stuff might be close to completion, and one very, very long year after its expected release date, Boys Don’t Cry looks like it will finally drop this coming Friday, 5th August 2016.
So, with #FrankieFriday on the horizon (it’ll catch on), a little Frank Ocean special is in order. Mr Ocean is a man in high demand, due largely to the critically acclaimed (although 131,000 first week and 600,000+ all time sales isn’t bad either, especially for an R&B album) success that was channel Orange.
It’s a 60 minute, 18 song piece of work that has kept an incredibly thirsty fan base just about drip-fed in the four-year gap between itself and the eventual sophomore release.
So it’s only natural I put them in some sort of order, right? Right.
18 – Not Just Money
Spoiler alert: the intermissions don’t do well in these rankings. The woman’s voice (Frank doesn’t feature) kind of grates on me, personally, which is enough to make this the worst song on channel Orange. The message is impactful enough, the importance of money in day-to-day living, it falls flat though because, well, it’s not a song.
17 – Start
Not much to say here. It gets points for having the original Playstation start-up noise, but loses a hell of a lot more for being a 45 second snippet of an introduction.
16 – Golden Girl (feat. Tyler, the Creator)
Confession time: before writing this up, I didn’t even know this song existed. Apparently it featured exclusively on the CD versions of the album, as a bonus track hidden away at the end. I can’t say I like it either, especially the Tyler verse at the end, which doesn’t fit the sound of channel Orange whatsoever.
15 – White (feat. John Mayer)
The original version of this track was on the Odd Future tape released in the same year,and to me is certainly the superior of the two. It’s a pity that that version couldn’t have made its way to this album instead, but only a small pity.
14 – End
This is nice. For a near-instrumental track, where the lyrics definitely play inferior, this is almost trance-like. It’s a relaxing and soothing ending to what is an emotionally heavy album of music.
13 – Fertilizer
It sounds like a commercial. It contains only 12 words from Frank, and three of those are “Fertilizer”. And yet it’s got some charm to it. As interludes go, this is up there.
12 – Monks
This is where it starts getting hard. There is not a single bad song from here until the end, and a lot of these songs are divided by small margins only. Unfortunately for Monks, it doesn’t have anything special. It’s a good song, there’s no doubt about that, the lyrics are clever and the beat refreshing, but its lack of something really memorable puts it at 11th place.
11 – Crack Rock
CRACKROCKCRACKROCK. A song that is undoubtedly catchy, and yet sung from the heart, on a subject that is clearly personal for Frankie. It doesn’t rank higher, and I know this is a stupid reason, purely because there’s only so many times I want to hear the words “crack rock” in a song, you know?
10 – Pilot Jones
God, I love the intro to this song. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to not sing along with that chorus of “HIIIGH”. It’s Frank on his A game when it comes to vocal ability too, as he shows the versatility and depth within his singing voice. The 3rd and final verse just doesn’t really do it for me, though, unfortunately. In a song for the majority so full of life, I find that it falls a little flat.
9 – Forrest Gump
Performing a song from the perspective as Jenny in Forrest Gump is an idea that teeters on either side of genius and stupid. Ocean pulls it off, though, and performs a wonderful tribute to his first love, something you can find out more about first hand here.
8 – Sierra Leone
An extremely pretty song. You know that really, really satisfying feeling you get when something slots into something else smoothly and effortlessly? That’s what Sierra Leone is like as a piece of music. My only issues come with the relatively short length of the song and Frank Ocean saying the word “nipple”, which doesn’t sit well for some reason.
7 – Sweet Life
The best song wasn’t the single, and unfortunately for Sweet Life, it wasn’t Sweet Life either. Not to say that this isn’t wonderful though. A fantastic, 10 out of 10 hook surrounded by verses that are great, but don’t quite reach that kind of level.
6 – Pyramids
It takes up one whole sixth of the album, and coincidentally Pyramids comes 6th in this list. Ocean spends what is just under 10 minutes paralleling the lives of black women throughout history with the historical figure of Cleopatra. It’s another stupid or genius idea, but this one is even better. With such quality in the top 5, the only gripe is that it’s a bit long really, isn’t it?
5 – Super Rich Kids (feat. Earl Sweatshirt)
Perhaps the track on channel Orange that is the easiest and best to sing along to. Super Rich Kids is fantastic work from Frank, with his verses threaded together perfectly. It’s not like Earl Sweatshirt doesn’t do a good job either, but I like Earl, and I know what he can be capable of, and his verse falls short of normal standards. It could almost be described as radio friendly, which is an accusation not often levelled at Mr Sweatshirt. It is only a small blemish on what is a magical piece of music, however (and we’re only at number 5).
4 – Thinkin Bout You
You don’t have to excuse the mess in your room, Frank Ocean, I’m sure mine’s worse, tornado or no tornado. In all seriousness though, this R&B ballad hits hard. Yet it still feels like a song you can sing along to, with it’s simple flow and effortless vocal technique. It’s a song to make you take stock of just how talented Ocean is.
3 – Bad Religion
Bad Religion is one of those songs that has the feel of being a lot, lot longer than what it is. That’s not a criticism in any way, if anything it shows the kind of depth a tune like this has. It’s an amazingly powerful 2:55 of music, one that on most other albums of this ilk would be far and away the best song on there. On this, however, it’s only good enough for a bronze. Have I mentioned I love this album yet?
2 – Pink Matter (feat. Andre 3000)
In an album scarce on features, and even scarcer on good ones, Andre 3000 knocks this out of the park. Twice. The incredibly reclusive 3 Stacks turns up delivering what could be the best verse on the incredibly reclusive Frank Ocean’s album. Which is to take nothing away from Frank itself. Even his comparing of both cotton candy and Dragonball Z character Majin Buu to a lady’s vagina is inspired. I think.
The final minute of this song, especially the little thump, thump, thump at the end, are just perfect. It’s just a shame I don’t find it quite as perfect as the winner.
1 – Lost
Not just my favourite song on channel Orange, not just my favourite Frank Ocean song ever, but also one of my favourite songs of all time. For years I have adored this song, every single part of it. Every single beat is in place for a reason, the vocals are liquid gold and the chorus is unbelievable. No part of the song will ever top the final “Lost in the heat of it all” though. The understated emotion in Frank’s voice, married with the beat underneath it creates musical perfection. That’s what Lost is to me, a fantastically simple bit of perfection.