A little after 9 p.m. last night, Twitter went nuts. Or at least it did if you
follow people who think and/or write about music.
A week earlier than anticipated, just before appearing on Jimmy Fallon's late night show, and having only recently posted a beautiful, poetic and groundbreaking letter to his Tumblr, Frank Ocean released his new record, "Channel Orange."
It shot straight to No. 1 on iTunes. It's still there. It's topped Twitter's trending topics all and.
It's still streaming on Tumblr.
As quickly as it could be downloaded, it was being deconstructed. What's it sound like? Stevie? Prince? Marvin? Yes. All of 'em, in ways big or small.
The New York Times' John Caramanica, who profiled Ocean in Sunday's paper, made the same connection that popped into my head: Fiona Apple.
On "Channel Orange," we're hearing a talented, smart, ambitious 24-year-old wrestle with love, and loss, and class, and injustice, and the swirling pit emotions that come with early-adulthood. He's doing it with soul. And he's doing with style. Earl Sweatshirt, Andre 3000, and even John Mayer add assists.
But the star is the story, and the story is the star. There's a better than good chance we'll be talking about this record, and Ocean, for the rest of the year. It's too good, and there's too much to digest fully in one day.
That note he posted online, the one written in December and intended for the "Channel Orange" liner notes, adds context to the record, and the conversation. A little controversy, too. Ocean's revelation -- that at 19 he fell in love with a man, the kind of thing R&B and hip hop musicians do not talk about -- was tackled by plenty of smart writers last week: Ann Powers at NPR Music, Gerrick D. Kennedy at the Los Angeles Times, and Caramanica were just a few.
The impact of -- the importance of -- Ocean's honesty will play out in the week's, months and years to follow. In a note prefacing the posting of those liner notes, Ocean wrote, "my hope is that the babies born these days will inherit less of the (expletive) than we did."
Maybe yes. Maybe no. Maybe they'll have all new (expletive) to deal with. But so much of that -- all of that -- is out of our control. You do what you can do. What Ocean did was make an essential record.
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