Lawrence K. Ho, Los Angeles Times / Def Jam
The most magnetic record of the year, "Channel Orange" would be so even without the boundary-busting truth of "Forrest Gump," a tortured ode to Ocean's unrequited love for another man. As a whole, though, gender on "Channel Orange" matters less than Ocean's skill as a songwriter and vocalist. Sitting in that sweet spot among Marvin Gaye, Prince and R. Kelly, where softness supplants bombast and layers of sound add depth, "Channel Orange" feels like a work that as the years pass will only grow in stature. I can't wait to hear where he goes next.