Sunday, July 22, 2012

channel ORANGE

I just drove from Salt Lake City to Payson, the Wasatch Mountains off to my left by turns oppressively and consolingly permanent, listening to channel ORANGE, the new album by Frank Ocean.  I'd spent the night with two friends, Jorge and Dave—gotten mildly drunk. This afternoon we celebrated the two-year birthday of Felix, Jorge's son. Around 4:00pm I left in a rush and drove through streets that teemed with memories.

I used to listen to R&B all the time. This afternoon, before leaving Jorge's, I saw a celebratory article about Ocean in the New Yorker and decided the album might help with the drive. It did. channel ORANGE reminded me of Prince in its oddness, its freedom—also of Outkast (AndrĂ© 3000 appears on a song I haven't yet reached) and of Kanye West and—less forcefully—of Marvin Gaye. Ocean isn't courageously honest; he's honest because, as with those other artists, honesty makes his art possible. So his honesty isn't an act of bravery but a means of survival.

Upon arriving at my mom's I decided to learn a bit more about him. A Google search revealed a recent Tumblr post in which he announces—confesses isn't the right word—that his first love was a young man he met when he was nineteen. (He's now 24.) It's a beautiful post, belonging to the sacred tradition of love letters written by the brokenhearted. It can be found here.

Beyond that, Utah remains as lovely as ever, the mountains ascending into its high desert sky, the sunsets exquisitely slow this time of year, the clouds throughout the day providing their drama. Tonight I'm going to spend a few hours imagining that Frank Ocean and I are kindred spirits. Yes, we pay a high price for life's moments of happiness; but sadness, too, has its rewards. In Ocean's case, it makes him sing. So: here's to more sadness.

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