Frank Ocean Is Boring: The Year Lifeless Music Found Critical Praise

Categories: Year-End

This does not, however, mean he made a good record. Channel Orange is listless in the extreme. On several tracks, Ocean seems barely to be keeping himself awake behind the microphone. That's when you can actually hear his voice, which is often buried under layers of production. It's hard to tell if this is intentional, or if Ocean is just unable to muster the strength to sing louder than his beats, no matter how much his producers turn them down.

The greatest r&b stars, from Marvin Gaye to Diana Ross, Teddy Pendergrass to Usher, R. Kelly, and even (believe) Justin Bieber have a crackling energy. Marvin Gaye isn't covered in sweat on the cover of his live albums because it was hot at Carnegie Hall--he exploded with emotion on stage, and his voice was always bursting with feeling. Even laid-back songs, like those found on Kelly's album from this year, Write Me Back, are relentlessly moody and funny. All of this is totally absent on Channel Orange. Critics who've found themselves blown away by Ocean might be wise to listen Miguel's lively and irresistibly sexy "Adorn" for a serious compare and contrast.

The closest predecessor for Ocean, however, is former Canadian teen star Drake. He's spent the last three years or so at the top of the charts with a particular kind of laid-back, modern R&B that can mix boasts and introspection, often in the same line. Sound familiar? Effectively, Ocean isn't doing anything that hasn't done very recently and very well. The major difference between the works of the two is that Ocean has been praised as being "revolutionary" for removing anything exciting, danceable, or funny from Drake's work.

One last thing, directed at every commentator that compared Ocean to Prince. On three out of the last five tracks on Orange, Ocean's voice suddenly jumps an octave and the songs begin with melodramatic organ flourishes. In other words, he is basically doing a Prince impression. These are the only tracks where a comparison to Prince makes any sense, as the record is not overflowing with angular guitars, overblown piano interludes, complex internal mythology, or, again, anything approaching the energy of even the worst Prince song ("Diamonds and Pearls," maybe?). Doing a Prince impression does not make you an artist like Prince.

What can we learn from a year like this, where the indie community rallies around the most boring records of the year? A year where lifelessness is life? Is everybody out there depressed about something? Maybe, after everything, it's nothing more than a positive economic indicator. They say that in an economic depression, the people as a mass want diversion and distraction. The worse the depression, the bigger the lines of dancing girls. By that measure, 2012 has seen a complete economic turnaround. Somebody get the guys at Planet Money on this.

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146 comments
tonylun89
tonylun89

This is the most ignorant and ridiculous article I have ever read. Kill yourself Chris chafin. Seriously, kill yourself. This guy comes from a completely unique and refreshing perspective and creates songs that tell stories and paint visuals that you obviously cannot comprehend, let alone appreciate. You'd rather hear about obnoxiously explicit sexcapades with no purpose whatsoever? Just idiots singing In circles over recycled beats? That's what you're in to? Well then don't write music reviews you simple bitch. I really hope you don't get paid to write this shit.. And that concludes the first comment I have ever posted on a web article. And I read a lot of them.

riley
riley

this is true

Trulyunique
Trulyunique

Wow amazing how u can say the album is boring. If u people need music to judge whether your boring or fun then u have bigger issues Frank has tons of emotion and pure feeling in his music and his song writing is top notch . He actually talks about things other then sex and clubbing in his music which is a breath of fresh air is r&b music nowadays . U people need to open up your minds and listen to this man he's a true unique artist and I'm not one to always agree with all critics but when it has universal acclaim and is the number one reviewed in all of music then maybe some of u need to open your ears. Seems to me like this site is trying to hard to be different from other music sites who has praised him. Listen people

Trulyunique
Trulyunique

Wow amazing how u can say the album is boring. If u people need music to judge whether your boring or fun then u have bigger issues Frank has tons of emotion and pure feeling in his music and his song writing is top notch . He actually talks about things other then sex and clubbing in his music which is a breath of fresh air is r&b music nowadays . U people need to open up your minds and listen to this man he's a true unique artist and I'm not one to always agree with all critics but when it has universal acclaim and is the number one reviewed in all of music then maybe some of u need to open your ears. Seems to me like this site is trying to hard to be different from other music sites who has praised him. Listen people

BBFIII
BBFIII

If you think The Seer is a record only to be appreciated and not enjoyed, I highly doubt you grasped it. Try listening to it again, or perhaps look up the meaning of the word "catharsis" because you don't seem to understand the album's purpose.

And, while I can appreciate your familiarity with the work of John Cale and Lou Reed, grouping them in with Swans solely based on their commonality of being "dark" and "without melody" seems rather arbitrary. Perhaps more familiarity with dark, amelodic music would be useful.

Don't really care about the other artists, frankly.

ericmzzz
ericmzzz

@chels_upton the village voice music pieces are THE WORST

andresternberg
andresternberg

@alexmagnin I like Ocean, but listening to his album all the way through it seems like half the album is one long song about rich kids in LA

JairOPerez194
JairOPerez194

@RAL_95 this was the worst review ive ever read

Love_Frequencies
Love_Frequencies


Do not mistake simple for being "boring" and not mistake "energy" for being good.


Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and taste, this is what gives the world color. However, honesty is universally undeniable and therefore always something worth lending attention to.


chelsea.kiley
chelsea.kiley

Frank Ocean. Hmmm. There are some brilliant moments on that album. The problem is, the majority of his "fans" most likely don't know or don't care to know who Prince or Marvin Gaye is. Thus watering down his authenticity and talent to real music fans...( and critics. ) If he came out of nowhere and had no association with OFWGABCDEFG who cares, then he would hardly be as famous as he is now....

terrymcbeer
terrymcbeer

ABSOLUTELY SPOT ON.


Frank Ocean's Orange is this year's Emperor's New Clothes. Everyone falls all over themselves to declare it amazing, but the reality is it's just an old dude running around naked.

johsteele
johsteele

Typically, I give reporters the benefit of the doubt, saying maybe they only heard one or two tracks to draw conclusions. But to compare Frank Ocean to Lana Del Ray? Is that a joke? Did you listen to the whole album? Lana's album is meant to be a deadpan, unemotional answer to soaring R&B stars with a sqeeky clean images of the past. Lana is artistically deadpan. Does it work? Not entirely. Ocean on the other hand has been praised for the soaring emotion in his music, not just in the lyrics but in the way he bends notes to his will (see the bridge on Thinkin' Bout You, the third chorus of Pilot Jones, Bad Religion). If you didn't listen to Pink Matter, Bad Religion and the other, more emotional tracks, I suppose you could find some sort of laid-back delivery and mistake it for boring. But as many reviewers like yourself have noted, some of the best R&B does the same (see Marvin Gaye). Ocean is informed by the distant past (Stevie, Marvin) while Miguel only goes back about 10-15 years. Neither is bad but how you draw a comparison to the decidedly deadpan delivery of Lana, I think you are on some of Ocean's Crack Rock. Just sayin. 

jesuslovesmetodelive
jesuslovesmetodelive

I totally agree with this article esp. this statement - "Critics who've found themselves blown away by Ocean might be wise to listen Miguel's lively and irresistibly sexy "Adorn" for a serious compare and contrast."  Last year, I supported both Frank Ocean & Miguel buying either their cds or singles, but now, I prefer to listen to Miguel over Frank.  Ocean may be the more metaphorical songwriter, but Miguel is a better singer (has a better falsetto/vocal range) & is a more exciting live performer.  "Adorn" by itself, as well as the rest of Miguel's "Kaleidoscope Dream" proves this.

sam.biederman
sam.biederman

I think you mean that Frank Ocean is CUTE, Chris.

mcn3ill
mcn3ill

@parkersmuse I couldn’t tell you one thing he sings.

chewyfuller
chewyfuller

@younggalaxy @villagevoice agreed. check out my tweet of december 19..now please expose mumford and son.#bland

berlich
berlich

@Gus_Noriega Bue, no estoy tan solo. Aunque Lana del Rey me gusta.

NoelioFuller
NoelioFuller

@soundofthecity I'd rather take #boring over the homogenous masses of music people like #drake have been releasing the past few years.

wismiss3
wismiss3

@RespectTheGB @soundofthecity I'm afraid I have to agree with this assessment. Listened to Orange many times..don't get it.

Omni7890
Omni7890

@lefty7448 @pplaresofickle the level of music pretension on my twitter feed just increased ten fold

ringolorenzo
ringolorenzo

@bananarams his tweets are mind-numbing drivel,but his album isn't all bad

CarlosFedeRey
CarlosFedeRey

@Gus_Noriega @JavierPortaFouz @TPtuit maravilloso! un idolo Chris Chafin. No todo está perdido.

Susan_424
Susan_424

@starr_d I think this is the same article, no?

Gus_Noriega
Gus_Noriega

@TPtuit "On several tracks, Ocean seems barely to be keeping himself awake behind the microphone" @CarlosFedeRey @JavierPortaFouz

jawnita
jawnita

@TaylerSometimes that is some trollin ass clickbait right there

chels_upton
chels_upton

@ericmzzz I was a fan of Maura before she was fired, this is just... ugggghhh

alexmagnin
alexmagnin

@andresternberg my favorite subject matter :)

RAL_95
RAL_95

@JairOPerez194 right lmfao I wanted to punch a baby cause of it

cyanslowly
cyanslowly

@audrey_estrada lana del ray is boring

parkersmuse
parkersmuse

@mcn3ill I MET MY LOVER IN THE GROCERY STORE... Jog your pop ear worm memory?

Gus_Noriega
Gus_Noriega

@berlich estás con @tptuit, @JavierPortaFouz, @CarlosFedeRey y quien te habla.

FakeBenJay
FakeBenJay

@Omni7890 @pplaresofickle "Triangles are my favorite shape": Most meaningful lyric of the year.

bananarams
bananarams

@ringolorenzo music & leather parents - Kanye's forte

starr_d
starr_d

@Susan_424 i'm a dork. lol.

TaylerSometimes
TaylerSometimes

@jawnita not to mention the record wasn't bad. & pigeonholing frank into standards of his r&b counterparts kinda undermines *FRANKS* music.

TaylerSometimes
TaylerSometimes

@jawnita if the whole article is about boring music in general, they clearly zoom in on Frank in the title for click purposes.

mcn3ill
mcn3ill

@parkersmuse No ma’am.

Omni7890
Omni7890

@lefty7448 @pplaresofickle can't tell if serious

jawnita
jawnita

@TaylerSometimes EXACTLY!!

mcn3ill
mcn3ill

@parkersmuse Me or you? Because I’ll be lucky to not to sleeping by then.

parkersmuse
parkersmuse

@mcn3ill wooooooooooo and woooo hooooo. And.... Faceplants on table 11:53pm

mcn3ill
mcn3ill

@parkersmuse I’m sure I’ll be harassing you a bit closer to midnight as well, but a most preemptive thanks!

mcn3ill
mcn3ill

@parkersmuse I confuse and confound quite easily.

parkersmuse
parkersmuse

@mcn3ill oh wait I thought your meant Dan Fogelberg. Lol

FakeBenJay
FakeBenJay

@Omni7890 @pplaresofickle Seriously listen to @alt_J's "An Awesome Wave" It's the only album I have w/"Awesome" in the title not by MouseRat

FakeBenJay
FakeBenJay

@Omni7890 @pplaresofickle THREE POINTS WHERE TWO LINES MEET BRO

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