The Lasting Impact of Frank Ocean's 'Channel Orange'

Six artists detail what Frank Ocean's 'Channel Orange' means to them and share a message with its creator in honor of the album's 10th anniversary.

frank ocean channel orange lasting impact
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frank ocean channel orange lasting impact

It was the bravery of his words, his pioneering compositions, and his anecdotal storytelling that encouraged a new era of musical rule breakers to follow suit. When Frank Ocean released his seminal debut studio album Channel Orange, fans listened intently, and the memory of that first experience with the music is still clear in the memory of so many.

UMI recalls her middle school experience with Ocean’s 2012 LP, which turned 10 last week. The singer-songwriter sat at her dining room table and gazed at her ceiling back in 2012, as the 62-minute masterpiece taught her all the ways she can paint a scene with her words. Today she passes those lessons onto others through her own work and even brings some of Frank’s words with her on tour.

“That album felt like freedom to me,” UMI explains. “Freedom to create music however I felt. Freedom to mix genres, freedom to talk about whatever I want. Whatever stories I wanted to express.”

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Just as it taught the neo-soul songbird about freedom, it taught Baby Rose to dig deeper, Joyce Wrice about speaking her truth through art, and Yuna about finding collaborators in the grandest places. Channel Orange was full of lessons for the next generation of musical leaders—some of whom covered selections from the album early on in their careers—so we gave a few of them a chance to detail what the project means to them and share a message with its creator in honor of its 10th anniversary.

Baby Rose

baby rose photo by Jomari Brown

Joyce Wrice

joyce wrice photo by christian smiley

Terry Presume

terry presume see you next year photo 1

Joy Crookes

joy crookes press photo

Do you recall the first time you listened to Channel Orange?

The first time that I listened to Channel Orange, I think I was actually with my dad and we’d seen the record in HMV. I must have been an early teenager and he bought the record and I remember hearing Andre 3000 in “Pink Matter,” and the way that Frank sang, and I was really moved. I also really thought, “I had never heard anything like this before.” And that was the first time I think I listened to Frank Ocean. It would’ve been with my dad. 


What did the album mean to you then and what did it mean to you today?

I think that it kind of means the same thing back then as it does now. Maybe it’s more developed, like now I’m an adult, but that’s just how innovative the album is and how genre-bending [it is]. As much as I don’t love that expression, it kind of defies genres. It was amazing at the time to hear…  a Black man not being a traditional R&B artist, enjoy and bathe in confusing people with his music in a way.

One thing I really struggle with is being put into a box with genres and when I heard Frank Ocean I was like, “Oh wow, okay this man does everything,” and no one can say anything. And fundamentally, this is a pop record, so I think that that was really, really important for me and that sticks with me today now. That’s what I love about Frank’s artistry. 


What would I say is my favorite song?

Oh god, maybe, maybe “Pink Matter.” I think Andre’s verse is unbelievable in it. Well actually, you know what, every song has a favorite thing about it for me. In “Pink Matter,” it’s the emotion in Frank’s voice that really, really moves me and the lyrics, always. “Bad Religion” has a really, really strong place in my heart because of the lyrics and that kind of topic and the way that Frank sings about it, I’ve never heard before. You know, “If it brings me to my knees, it’s a bad religion,” and, “He said ‘Allahu Akbar,’ I told him, ‘Don’t curse me’.” I just, I think it’s genius songwriting to be honest with you. 


You previously said in an interview that if you could listen to one album your whole lifetime, Channel Orange would likely be it. What makes it an easy choice?

I think it’s the fact that it’s everything. It touches on every single little thing. I feel like it’s just completely like I said before, it defies genre and I think that it’s so multi-layered and multi-faceted in the lyrics and the performance, in the people that he’s chosen to feature on it. The fact that there could be “Pyramids” and there could be a song like “Lost” existing in the same space. I’m someone that really loves so much music and so many different kinds of music. It’s amazing when you can find a pop album that touches on so many of those different influences and genres. 


If you could share a message with Frank about this album, what would it be?

I met him twice recently, in LA. I got him to hold my drink so I could show him that I have his name, “Frank,” tattooed on my arm for my grandfather. But I looked at Frank Ocean and said, “We can pretend it’s you.” If I could share a message I’d tell him thank you. I’d tell him thank you. I think he’s made it much easier for artists like myself, I want to exist in a pop space but I also want to exist in a space where I could explore deeper subject matters, deeper lyrics, deeper everything. I think that he has allowed that space to exist for someone like myself and has done it in such a graceful way and I would love to occupy space the way that he does. I’m not Frank Ocean, I can completely appreciate that, but it’s his way with music and words and artistry and I hope that I can contribute something similar to this earth. That would be my message.


yuna press photo by Adam Sinclair

Do you recall the first time you listened to Channel Orange?

Yes! It was July of 2012 with “Thinkin Bout You.” I had just moved to Los Angeles and into my first apartment in DTLA. The only stuff I had was my suitcase, some hand me down furniture from my friend who had just moved out of the building and my TC-Helicon Voicelive. Channel Orange had just come out, I fell in love with it and made a cover of that song with my Voicelive, it’s still on Youtube!

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You made that cover about 10 years ago and it was a big moment for you early on. What did the album mean to you then, and what does it mean to you today?

When it came out I remember I had just put out my first album here in the US. I was on tour and I was listening to Channel Orange the whole time, so my life experiences back then were intertwined with the album. Every song just tied up to certain memories like, “I was in the sprinter van driving past Mount Shasta for the first time when I was listening to ‘Pink Matter,’” you know, something like that! It’s pretty cool that it was a part of my life then when I first started my music career here and now 10 years later I’m working with Malay! Once in a while, I’ll drive around and listen to the entire album just listening to every song and being blown away by them.

What’s your favorite song on it, and why?

“Thinkin Bout You.” It just brings back memories and makes me feel sad and happy at the same time.

You’ve worked with Malay on some new material. What was it like to create with someone who crafted one of your favorite albums? 

Amazing! It’s a pretty special thing because I knew of him but didn’t know that he was half-Malaysian. We were introduced to each other by a mutual friend and it was not for work but solely because we were Malaysians. We just wanted to hang out and eat Laksa (a Malaysian dish)! Yes, food was always the main topic of our convos! It was only a few years later I picked up the courage and asked if we could work on music together! I was so nervous!

If you could share a message with Frank about this album in particular, what would it be?

Thank you for sharing your stories with us! It’s now become a part of our story to tell the world.


umi press photo frank ocean

Do you recall the first time you listened to Channel Orange?

YES. In middle school, I found “Thinkin Bout You” on YouTube and instantly fell in love. I vividly remember playing the album on repeat at my dining table just staring at the wall :) 

What’s your favorite song?

“Thinkin Bout You” or “Super Rich Kids” because of the way those songs make me feel to this day. I feel transported. I see colors, smell different scents. Those songs are really multi-sensory for me. 

What did the album mean to you then, and what does it mean to you today?

The project expanded my mind, and continues to, to this day 

Did Channel Orange impact how you make music in any way?

It broadened my perspective on songwriting. The idea that I can create a story and paint an ever changing scene. That I can write like I would a short story. 

I know you cover “Self Control” on tour. How does Frank himself inspire you?

Frank’s creativity in his music inspires me to think outside the box. It’s in his vocal production, the way he plays with instrumentation, his production. All that is so him. He’s created his own sound and I wish to continue to do the same. 

If you could share a message with Frank about this album in particular, what would it be?

Thank you so much for sharing a lil bit of yourself with us.

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