Frank Ocean is sort of annoying. It’s not so much how he sounds; though the Chipmunk voice effect he occasionally uses is silly; it’s more the juvenile things he sometimes says. An early interlude suggests he gets it from his Mom. “Don’t try to be someone else,” she commands via phone, “Be yourself and know that that’s good enough.” Generic advice like that is as useless as hot air on a summer day. What’s wrong with trying to be better than good enough? At one point, her son mentions Michael Jackson. If he tried to be (like) him, he’d be diversifying his voice by using it for more than just the whiny crooning he does on these songs.
But that’s not fair. There’s nothing wrong with a one-trick pony if the trick is good “enough”. And when it comes to whiny crooning, Frank Ocean is a talent. It’s specifically his melodic compositions that impress. A lot of people can sing well. Far fewer have the ability to compose vocal melodies people want to hear. He’s having a hard time evolving those melodies into full songs though. His previous album, Channel Orange, is better than this one. That’s not just because of the vocals but also the music. Lacking are pulsating thumpers like Thinkin Bout You and Pink Matter. Andre 3000 is back, but this time he’s rapping to a drumless piano riff.
my rating = 3 of 5
The TV theme, which offers ghostly interludes of what sounds like a person flicking thru channels, is unnecessary. It’s subtle enough, but it serves as a minor distraction from what is otherwise an album of outstanding soul songs. They’re designed around soft and often drum-dampened grooves, mostly slow and sensual in nature; rhythmic pulsations that drip, ooze and float around in space like daydreams of amour caught in a lava lamp. The only reason it’s Pink Matter, as opposed to Orange, is because that particular ode, featuring guest rapper Andre 3000, happens to be dedicated to a girl.
Forrest Gump is dedicated to a guy, which makes Frank Ocean either as bisexual as Janet Jackson was when she sang about loosening the back of a girl’s “pretty” French gown and tying her up with Velvet Rope or as artistically daring. In either case, wherever his true romantic orientation lies, there’s undeniable beauty in these songs. Frank Ocean is like Stevie Wonder in the 1970s, which is nothing less than fantastic, but it’s a style that wouldn’t mean much if that’s all he had to offer. Beyond all the gloss; even the song about Crack Rock sounds enticing enough to make love to; are hearty vocal melodies.
my rating = 4 of 5