Frank Ocean

(Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Channel Orange (2012) , 7/10
Blonde (2016), 5/10

Frank Ocean, a member of Los Angeles' hip-hop collective Odd Future, penned the intimate cosmic soul music of the mixtape Nostalgia Ultra (2011), bordering on Nick Drake's manic depression.

His grand songwriting ambitions permeated Channel Orange (Def Jam, 2012), notably the ten-minute Pyramids. It was the most hyped album of the year, but ultimately Ocean was only capable of pop-soul ballads in a traditional format (barely adjusted to hip-hop productions and attitudes) and their lyrical acumen was mainly in the minds of the critics who liked to hear religious overtones in stories set in the decadent milieu of misfits, losers, nihilists and existential zombies of the heartless Californian metropolis. That said, the songs are clockworks of arrangements, textures, nuances and vocal styles, and represent the state of the art in the soul genre the way that, say, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon represented the state of the art of rock music (its not-so-great artistic value aside). It is difficult to be moved by trite coldly calculated fare like the falsetto agony of Thinkin Bout You or the chamber lied Bad Religion, but one can nonetheless admire how the technicians assembled the products without sounding too nostalgic when they steal from Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Prince.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Martino Valbusa)

Membro del collettivo hip-hop losangelino Odd Future, Frank Ocean compose nel 2011 Nostalgia Ultra, mixtape di soul intimo/cosmico, bipolare quasi quanto Nick Drake.

Le sue grandiose ambizioni compositive permearono Channel Orange (Def Jam, 2012), in special modo i dieci minuti di Pyramids. Fu l'album che più i media spinsero quell'anno, ma in ultima analisi Ocean era capace solo di ballate pop-soul di stampo tradizionale (conformato a malapena a produzioni e pose hip-hop) e l'acume dei testi stava soprattutto nelle menti dei critici che amavano sentire allusioni religiose in storie ambientate nel contesto decadente dei disadattati, perdenti, nichilisti e zombie esistenziali della spietata metropoli californiana. Ciò detto, le canzoni sono meccanismi ad orologeria di accordi, trame, sfumature e stili vocali, e rappresentano lo stato dell'arte nel genere soul nel modo in cui, per dire, Dark Side of the Moon dei Pink Floyd (tralasciando il suo non così grande valore artistico) rappresentò lo stato dell'arte della musica rock. Difficile commuoversi davanti a freddi e calcolati cliché quali l'agonia in falsetto di Thinkin Bout You o il lied cameristico di Bad Religion, ma si può comunque ammirare come i tecnici abbiano assemblato il prodotto senza sembrare troppo nostalgici mentre saccheggiavano Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye e Prince.

The hype preceding its release did not help Blonde (2016), produced by Noah Goldstein, overcame the fundamental mediocrity of the lo-fi songs, as if they were merely reworked leftovers. The album can matter only to those who care about his autobiographical lyrics, or fascinated by moments of pathological melancholia (Seigfried). All in all, the 45-minute video, Endless, that preceded it, might be more interesting. (Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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(Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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