Frank Ocean’s Breakout Year In Review: Channel Orange, Sexuality, Grammy Nods

Frank Ocean tops off critically acclaimed debut album Channel Orange with six Grammy nominations.

Just over a year ago Frank Ocean performed his very first solo show in his hometown New Orleans. The singer/songwriter, who wowed the industry with his self-released masterpiece Nostalgia Ultra in February 2011 was awkward and self-conscious on stage, but what a difference a year makes. Over the next 12 months, an official debut album, a full tour and six Grammy nominations came his way.

A few weeks after that initial performance in New Orleans, Ocean made his NYC debut and shortly thereafter announced that he was prepping his studio debut album for release on Def Jam in the spring. Ocean explained that the reception of Nostalgia Ultra finally forced the label to invest in him, while it initially seemed like they were just “signing a kid with dreams and talent with no intention of following through.”

In the months that elapsed before his album was ready the 25-year-old released a few one-off singles including “Whip Appeal” and “White,” and, finally, in June revealed that his LP would be titled Channel Orange. While anticipation for the project continued to build among his core fan base, it was impossible to predict what would happen next, catapulting him to a new level of scrutiny, and earning him a whole new fan base.

During listening sessions for Channel Orange journalists began to note that Ocean confusingly referred to “he” on songs about romance and relationships, but the confusion was cleared up with one Tumblr entry. In July, Ocean posted the liner notes from the album, revealing that his first love was a man. For the next couple of weeks his name was splashed across countless headlines and “Frank Ocean” was finally becoming a household name.

Ocean admitted that the move made him feel free, and it didn’t hurt his album sales either. Even though Channel Orange’s release date was suddenly pushed up a week earlier to avoid a leak—and it wasn’t available at retailers like Target—it still debuted at #2 on the charts with 131,000 digital copies sold.

Frank Ocean Shares Another Photo Of Rumored Boyfriend

With the album in stores, Ocean hit the road for his Channel Orange U.S. tour, a Lollapalooza set and a memorable performance at the MTV VMAs, in addition to appearances on shows like “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” He even kicked off the new season of “Saturday Night Live” with a performance alongside John Mayer.

With his solo career skyrocketing (and his stage fright under control) Ocean was still an in-demand writer throughout the year, hitting the studio with Pharrell, Jay-Z, Beyonce and Alicia Keys, just to name a few. It couldn’t have been a difficult decision then, for GQ to name him one of their Men of the Year.

And with 2012 finally winding down, there was still one monumental moment left in store for Frank Ocean. When the 2013 Grammy nominations list was announced, he came out with a whopping six nods,including one in the coveted Best New Artist category and Record of the Year for “Thinkin Bout You.”

February 11, 2013 is certainly set to be a memorable night for Mr. Ocean but before that he can wrap up 2012, which he calls a “peaceful but active year,”  knowing that it was the biggest breakthrough year of his career.