With Frank’s storytelling of romance, drug addiction, and luxury, over Stevie Wonder style keyboard instrumentals and smooth, breezy production, “Channel Orange” is very much a grander form of his debut mixtape “Nostalgia, Ultra."
On the single “Thinkin Bout You”, which inspired the “A potato flew around my room” vine, Frank reflects on a past relationship with a person he still has strong feelings for and wonders if they still think of him. Frank then tells a fictional story in “Sierra Leone” of getting a girl pregnant as a teenager, but becoming a present and responsible father, unlike his real father who left his family when Frank was at a young age. The 2 tracks “Sweet Life” and “Super Rich Kids” speak of luxurious lifestyles, disillusionment, and material objects not being able to fill a void like love and attention can from parents.
The longest track “Lost” is a story of Frank and his woman who left him for another man. Throughout the first half of the song Frank uses Cleopatra as a metaphor for the woman and her descent from being his “queen.” Almost all of the songs are solely about romantic interactions with the song “Monks” being about a groupie Frank met during a tour. “Pilot Jones” and “Lost” are both about a relationship involving a drug dealer with “Lost” being about a girlfriend who wants to lead a normal life but gets lost in the chaotic lifestyle. Then you have “Bad Religion” where Frank speaks to a cab driver about him falling in love with someone that did not have the same feelings. The album's 16th track, “Forrest Gump,” can either be perceived in Jenny’s perspective from the movie or Frank himself attributing Forrest’s characteristics to a lover of his own. The upbeat production on the track “Crack Rock” contrasts with the dark subject matter of drug addiction inspired by NA meetings he had gone to.
With features like Earl Sweatshirt, Andre 3000, John Mayer and a production team of Pharrell, Om’Mas Keith, Malay and Frank himself, “Channel Orange” may be the greatest debut R&B album to date.
Review by David Paul G.