Frank Ocean gave fans an unexpected yet well-received surprise by releasing his debut record, Channel Orange, a week earlier than scheduled on his Tumblr. The album has already reached the No. 1 spot on iTunes.
Last week, Ocean also posted a letter on his Tumblr, frankocean.com, in which he revealed he fell in love with a man at the age of 19, opening up a discussion about his sexuality. While Ocean did not use the specific word choices of “gay” or “bisexual” – or on Channel Orange itself -- he is now seen as a groundbreaker in the hip hop community, an industry that is predominately heterosexual.
Much of the discussion behind Channel Orange focuses on the pronouns in his songs, which are the first tip-off to his previous and current relationship/s with a man. In particular, Ocean used “he” instead of “she” in the songs “Bad Religion” and “Forest Gump.” Still, many critics are saying the pronoun usage is irrelevant, as the songs themselves stand out far beyond their subject matter.
The album garnered instant praise from reputable music critics. Billboard’s Jason Lipshutz said: “Now that Channel Orange has arrived on iTunes, that sigh of relief has become a squeal of excitement. And rightly so: over 17 tracks, some of which spin into nothingness and others which poke longingly at the meaning of the universe, Channel Orange presents a complex view of American life from the mind of superbly talented writer and vocalist.”
The New York Times’ Jon Caramanica also had high remarks for Channel Orange, saying, “It’s signature Frank Ocean: dignified, quasi-political, cerebral without being disdainful, fleetingly hopeful.”
While Frank Ocean has already proved he doesn’t need any help from others, Channel Orange still features appearances from big-name hip-hop artists like Andre 3000 and Earl Sweatshirt. Pharrell Wiliams also lent help on the production side of the record.