In this cynical world, Frank Ocean's timing in revealing his sexuality seems a bit curious: The Tumblr-page announcement that shook the urban music world came less than two weeks before the release of his sophomore album, ``Channel Orange,'' bringing him an avalanche of publicity and making him the most celebrated figure in music at the moment.
It would all seem a bit manufactured _ if we were talking about a lesser artist. But the 24-year-old Ocean _ who already had music fans in the know enraptured by his self-released ``nostalgia, ULTRA'' last year _ is so genuine in his artistry that it's unthinkable that anything else in his mind could be contrived. And on the wonderful ``Channel Orange,'' Ocean continues to demonstrate that he's among the truest, brightest new talents to come on the scene in a while.
In many ways, ``Channel Orange'' picks up where ``nostalgia, ULTRA'' left off: It continues on a similar musical path, filled with luscious, pillowy slow grooves (''Thinkin Bout You,'' `'Pilot Jones''), whirring electro beats (''Pyramids'') and retro-soul (''Sweet Life''). But ``Channel Orange'' digs deeper than just intriguing melodies and beats: Ocean, who co-wrote most of the album with the likes of Pharrell Williams, James Ho and others, gets political on ``Crack Rock'' and deeply personal on ``Bad Religion,'' where he's tormented by male lover who doesn't return the affection, and cries: ``If it brings me to my knees, it's a bad religion.''
Of course, it's Ocean's same-sex declaration that has garnered him so much attention over the last two weeks. But anyone expecting ``Channel Orange'' to be some kind of gay pride statement may be disappointed: On most of the songs he's pining for a woman, and the most overt same-sex love song, ``Forrest Gump,'' may be social commentary, but it comes across as just a sweet, whimsical love song _ which, at its heart, it is.
As headline-grabbing as Ocean's recent announcement turned out to be, the enduring story remains his talent, which is showcased brilliantly on ``Channel Orange.''
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: The most luxurious slow jam of the year, thus far, is the ever-dreamy ``Thinkin Bout You,'' as Ocean's seductive falsetto gets the heart pacing.