As someone who self-admittedly listens to an unhealthy amount of Frank Ocean, I think it sometimes surprises people that I wasn't the biggest fan of Channel Orange. Obviously, it's good, but it just felt a little flatter than some of Frank's other releases, overly jazzy and long, as well as being less relatable than Blonde. I'm sure that the BDSM trust fund crack addict Venn diagram had a great time with the album; however, I struggled to connect with it in the same way because of the more potent themes and often more literal delivery. This changed recently when I went to Amsterdam.
There was about a month where it felt like everything in my life was pointing me towards Amsterdam. All of my friendship groups were individually going to Amsterdam, girls I was talking to were going to Amsterdam. My favourite song was Time by Giveon from a film called Amsterdam. Then I got a message on this site from a label out in Amsterdam saying they liked my review and that if I was ever in Amsterdam to drop by. That was it. Weekend in Amsterdam booked. I arranged a meeting with the label and planned to crash at the hotel my friends were staying at.
Then the label cancelled WHILE I WAS IN THE CHANNEL TUNNEL.
I couldn't even pretend this was a business trip anymore. That label, by the way, still hasn't reached back out to me to this day. This is possibly the worst I have ever been ghosted.
Despite this, on the first day, I had a good time with my friends. We took too many drugs and spent about 20 minutes laughing at a piece of art with someone throwing up on it because 'the art was sick.' In hindsight, I understand why they want to ban edibles for tourists. The second day was the issue; my friends jetted off early on, and since I had planned to be in the back of some coffee shop plotting a takeover of the music industry with this label all day, I hadn't booked my journey home until about 9 pm that night. This is where Channel Orange came in clutch.
I think that was the first day in a long time for me when I was waiting for time to pass as opposed to wanting it to slow down. Something about that shift of attitude made Frank's more direct yet lethargic delivery on the album feel right, especially because the tracks on Channel Orange evolve and improve in a way that other tracks in Frank's discography don't. For example, I'd never really given Pyramids a chance because I didn't really like the pyramid-shaped synth break. However, after that point, the song improves dramatically, with funkier neon synth and better drums actually putting the synth break into a perspective where it made sense and added to the track.
Also, Monks is Frank's most underrated song hands down. The synth, bass, and the use of the drums create this beautifully messy vibe of a hookup binge. Matched with lyrics that read like an inner monologue, lines such as 'Likes to fuck boys in bands' are so direct they made me laugh. The attitude comes across like a desensitisation towards sex, but in a way that feels lighthearted. Self-destructive without being self-serious.
Meandering around the canals, parks, and cafes, listening to Thinking Bout You, Sierra Leone, and Crack Rock made me see the city in a far more playful way. Instead of feeling lost, I felt like an explorer. Speaking of Lost, this song is awesome. Maybe it's because I was actually lost in an Amsterdam train station at this point, but this song had me giggling nearly as much as the sick poster on the previous day.
There was something about Frank's tongue-in-cheek, romanticised approach to being lost that matched perfectly with the upbeat melody and had me smiling throughout the 11-hour coach journey home.
I highly recommend Channel Orange to anyone who has gone to Amsterdam for a record label meeting that was cancelled. 10/10.