With early returns from Mojo, Uncut, and Paste already pouring in, we’re beginning to develop a clear picture of what this year’s Album of the Year race is starting to shape up as, and it’s pretty darn interesting.
Presently, with a #2 showing at Mojo, #5 with Uncut, and a penthouse position with Paste (on top of glowing reviews from all across the spectrum), it’s safe to say that Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE is 2012’s universally accepted favorite. Additionally, there is a good 90% chance it will top Pitchfork‘s tally, and numerous other publications will have it easily in their Top 10, most likely keeping it in their Top 3. Yet Ocean’s victory comes at a price: while channel ORANGE is quite extraordinary and often very gutting, what a lot of critical institutions will “hear” is the backstory, with Ocean’s heartfelt admission of his sexuality being accepted in the hip-hop community taking more ink than the music that inspired his revelation, these two events in tandem marking a watershed moment for a notoriously homophobic genre that will be celebrated for years to come. This being said, keep an eye on write-ups that appear about channel ORANGE, and see if the conversation is more about the album itself or what Ocean’s closet-destroying moment signifies in a cultural context. Critics very much want to be on the right side of history, but is channel ORANGE an achievement for its bold sexual politics or because it’s just a great album?