The world is still here and 2013 is around the corner, so this would be the perfect time to take one look back at 2012 and the best album of this year. The picture next to this post already spoiled the surprise, but Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange is by far the strongest and most beautiful record of the year.
It was quite a year for Frank Ocean. After releasing the critically acclaimed mixtape nostalgia, ultra, there was some talk about a commercial release of the mixtape. This never happened because of sample-clearing-problems. I would have loved to spend money on something that good, so I hoped the album I actually would be able to pay for was worth it’s cash.1 Then the following four things happened:
1: Pyramids was released.
Almost ten minutes of Frank Ocean? I was already in before the track started. The two-part song gave a good impression of what Ocean is capable of. Also: some buzz around the internet about the guitar solo at the end of Pyramids. Supposedly it’s John Mayer. Of course, who else?
2: The coming-out-the-closet post hit the internet.
My thoughts, in chronological order: Beautiful. No surprise. I really don’t care. Is it a marketing stunt? If so, that’s really out-of-the-box advertising. Fuck this non-conversation and just give me the album already.
3: Major television debut at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
For his television debut Frank Ocean made a bald choice by performing not one of his singles Pyramids or Thinking About You, but the song that started all rumors – Bad Religion. Probably one of his best decisions of the year. The heartfelt and breathtaking performance was definitively one of the musical highlights of the last couple of years. His voice, together with the minimalistic music provided by The Roots, silenced everybody, including the haters. Yeah, I’m ready for the album now.
4: Channel Orange was released.
I downloaded it as soon as possible and then kept playing it. In the car, in the house, at work, under the shower. All day, every day, any damn day. A month after the release it was still on repeat, like all other music had disappeared from my iPhone and iTunes. The last time this happened was with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. So, a great mixtape and a great album in just two years. What do I need more? A legendary live show, of course, but I’m still waiting.2
Personally, the album was everything I hoped and wished for. Deep, thought-provoking, sincere, well-balanced and musically layered, no other album came close in 2012. And the critics agreed. Channel Orange is mentioned in every list of this year, usually at the top spot.3 Let’s hope we will hear a lot more of Frank Ocean in 2013.
The other not-to-miss albums of 2012, in no particular order:
Big Boi – Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors
Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City
The Weeknd – Trilogy 4
Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream
Solange – True
- Not that Ocean really needed this money. In one of the few interviews he’s done, it became clear that he already made a lot of dollars by writing songs for other artists. I don’t really care, he deserves the recognition. ↩
- Yeah, I know about that mini-tour in November, 2011. Six small venues in six cities across the globe (LA, NY, New Orleans, London, Paris & Amsterdam) sold out in exactly 0.189 seconds. I managed to get tickets. Unfortunately, Frank never managed to arrive in Amsterdam. It’s somewhere in the higher regions of my potentially-great-shows-that-never-happened list. Yep, Michael Jackson has the number one spot in a headlock. ↩
- Followed closely by Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City. Which is a great album, but a little overrated. ↩
- 99.8% of the songs were released in 2011, I know. Since the official trilogy came out in 2012 and I still listen the shit out of it, it has earned it’s spot. ↩