On the one hand, I like the new Frank Ocean album. It's the rare R&B album that has zero tracks I want to skip. On the other, it's most notable feature is that it breaks absolutely no new ground: the best songs (and parts of songs) are derivative of Prince, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Kanye. The lyrical subject matter is repetitive, and lacks any fresh perspective--the bad relationship songs, for example, lack the kind of lacerating honesty of Kanye's (in Ocean's unrequited love songs, the problem is always with the other person). But it's a good album in spite of this, if not groundbreaking. There's about as much shame in liking it as liking any other intentionally retro nostalgia act. It's the Silversun Pickups with much better execution.

What drives me up a wall, here as everywhere else, is the critical praise, which occasionally seems disconnected from reality. I have no problem with Ocean's decision to come out, but it does seem to have warped the judgment of critics. Thus the AV Club review, which ends with "It’s a testament to how assured Ocean’s debut album is that it makes even the groundbreaking coming-out story surrounding it feel like a mere footnote," but only after making that coming-out story the opening peg of the review, and the thing discussed at greatest length in it. Or the New Yorker, which compared Ocean's songwriting technique to the writing of... Lena Dunham. On which I would probably agree, though not in the way intended by Sasha Frere-Jones.

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