Frank Ocean at Coachella
The hype surrounding Frank Ocean’s debut album, Channel Orange, reached a fever pitch Thursday morning when indie tastemaker website Pitchfork gave the rising R&B star a 9.5 on a 10 scale, earning him a coveted Best New Music label. To put this in perspective, Pitchfork has bestowed scores of 9.5 or higher to six other albums the past decade. Those albums were The Wrens’ Meadowlands (9.5, 2003), The Fiery Furnaces’ Blueberry Boat (9.6, 2004), Arcade Fire’s Funeral (9.7, 2004), Kanye West’s Late Registration (9.5, 2005), Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion (9.6, 2009), and Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (10, 2010). Three of those six won Album of the Year – Funeral, Merriweather Post Pavilion, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Pitchfork editor-in-chief Ryan Schrieber’s tweet from Thursday indicated Ocean would win Album of the Year if the year ended today. That’s no surprise, given the praise Pitchfork lavished on Channel Orange and the fact the next highest score the site has awarded this year is a 9.1 to Beach House’s Bloom. But not only is 2012 far from over but there are several Pitchfork favorites releasing albums in the coming months. Animal Collective, Ariel Pink, Grizzly Bear, Big Boi and Kanye West, all of whom have recent 9.0 or better albums to their credit, are dropping new music in the coming months. So while Ocean is most likely assured a spot in the Top 3, he has not locked up Album of the Year (yet, at least).
Here’s a statistical look at how Pitchfork’s scoring practices have changed over the past decade, from a more liberal approach a decade ago that resulted in unpredictable year-end albums list to their more streamlined and conservative approach to doling out 9.0 scores in recent years.