Music Reviews
Nostalgia, Ultra

Frank Ocean Nostalgia, Ultra

(Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill 'Em All) Rating - 7/10

Drake is rumored to be putting out an R&B album sometime in the next few years. If it is anything like his last full album, Thank Me Later, that’s going to mean a whole shit load of auto tune. Like, T-Pain levels of auto tune.

Though there are signs of compression on his record, Frank Ocean never gets that digital on Nostalgia, Ultra, his debut mix tape as part of the Odd Future collective. Ocean, in fact, comes out against studio magic on Novocain, the tape’s best track: “Every single record / auto tuning / zero emotion / muted emotion / pitch corrected.”

Sure, he’s using it there as a metaphor for a drug-heavy relationship going south, but the idea of uncut emotion runs rampant throughout the record. Ocean isn’t afraid to come off as scared or confused or hurt, projecting a character that is much more nuanced than the average lothario found on a Trey Songz record. His best songs are the ones in which he isn’t the hero, like the aforementioned Novocain or the lovesick Songs 4 Women, a track where he confesses that, yes, he sings to get girls before getting rejected by a women for Drake, of all people.

The heart-on-sleeve look doesn’t always work for Ocean. The electronic bump of There Will be Tears, is a misstep: a story about Ocean dealing with loss of a father figure would make for a compelling-ass song if it were focused more on the words than with fucking around behind the board. American Wedding is another lazy track that finds Ocean re-writing the words to Hotel California by the Eagles. It’s an interesting idea, but one that comes closer to bad karaoke than the statement it’s trying to be.

Nostalgia, Ultra has more than enough good stuff to establish Ocean as an artist to watch. The record stands as the most shocking thing the Odd Future collective has put out to date: a R&B record with crossover potential without sacrificing soul that creates a complete picture of its author, warts and all.