Frank Ocean has the numbers on his side. The singer’s major label debut, Channel Orange, released exclusively on iTunes late Monday night, is projected to sell between 110,000 and 120,000. The big numbers by the Odd Future member followed his public coming-out announcement and Def Jam’s decision to digitally release the set a full week in advance.
The projected sales figures are extreme for a newcomer like Ocean in today’s climate. It puts his release on par with first-week numbers from R&B heavyweights such as Usher’s Looking 4 Myself (128K) and Chris Brown’s Fortune (135K).
“He’s sort of an anomaly,” said Keith Caulfield, Associate Director of Charts at Billboard magazine. “It’s awesome for him, for a new artist that is pretty much not well known to the general public. There are a whole series of unique circumstances surrounding his release: the revelation of sexuality, Odd future connection and working with Jay-Z and Kanye West [for Watch The Throne].”
While each played a significan role in Ocean’s growing popularity, his bombshell announcement on July 4, in which he revealed that he had been in a relationship with a man, commandeered the news cycle.
“I think people see [buying his album] as a salute in terms of support,” music journalist Tracy Garraud said. “When you have someone as talented as Frank and you feel like his life is mirroring his lyrics, we haven’t seen that in such a longtime in R&B. To have something that’s so personal put to music and make people feel that they are actually going to be listening to someone’s diary is great.”
Prior to Ocean’s big announcement, he was expected to sell 40K or 50K copies in his first week. According to Caulfield, the Odd Future connection figured heavily into early estimates.
“Odd Future and Tyler, The Creator had the same sort of profile that Ocean had [early on],” Caulfield said. “But I don’t know if you can correlate the sales to any one specifically thing.”
For Sha Money XL, Vice President of A&R at Def Jam, Ocean’s coming out about his sexuality only re-enforced the honesty of his music.
“Frank is a discovery,” Sha told CBS Local. “He wasn’t something that was forced on you on radio or on TV. It was something that people who were loving music and searching for the real thing found in his music. Frank stuck to his core and his concept. This is what leads people to champion him. Frank didn’t make it about the videos or the big radio single. He made it about the music and his personal story.”
Channel Orange will be made available in CD form Juy 17th. –Keith Murphy, w/ E. Parker, CBS Local