How Frank Ocean’s Silence Speaks for Itself and How He Will Be Remembered Years from Now.
Frank Ocean is not a mystery. He is just a human being. All singers are human beings but not all of them are celebrities. Frank Ocean is not a celebrity. Hell, he hasn’t had televised performance or attended a music award show since 2013 when he was benefiting from immense feedback from his dreamy debut album, Channel Orange. Before then he was a member of former west side hip hop collective, Odd Future, in which he was a hole in the wall. A good hole in the wall. Fans of Frank back then weren’t necessarily fans of Odd Future as his instrumentals and lyrical content was spatially different from his colleagues. These initial fans of Frank Ocean didn’t want he to stay hidden. They wanted him to blossom into a superstar that altered R&B scene while being in the spotlight. As Frank left Odd Future and released a classic album in Channel Orange, it was presumed that he would continue to thrive in popularity and work with contemporary artists.
This was not the case. It took four years for the infamous Frank Ocean to released his two most recent projects Blonde and Endless which are his second and third albums respectively. Blonde is a reflective, coherent album. Endless is a quiet album open to interpretation. These two albums were released after an announcement from what then was a year ago in a Tumblr post where Frank mentions “I got two versions.” Both albums were successful considering that the released of Endless introduced a messy breakup between Ocean and his former record label with Blonde being his debut album from an independent standpoint. These albums were defiantly good work and the improvement from Channel Orange to Blonde is extremely noticeable. This was in the August of 2016.
In 2017, however, Frank Ocean has been involved in many things. During the first quarter of this year. He has released 3 songs. There is the new Calvin Harris early summer jam, Slide which curates Ocean’s monotone yet blissful vocals and two-thirds of Atlanta rap trio, Migos. The other two is a decadent track named “Chanel” in which Frank Ocean flawlessly describes his bisexual nature. The last track is a remix of “Chanel” with what seems sedated yet enjoyable vocals from Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky. Ocean also debuted Blonded Radio on Beats 1 in early March. He debuted “Chanel” along with a playlist he organized. There also was a short interview that leaked this year in which Ocean was discussing Blonde. There is the implication that it’s an older interview; one that was recorded in 2015.The singer is letting his voice be heard consistently which is kind of alarming since he is an artist not known for releasing singles. Even in 2012 with the release of Channel Orange, there was the single titled “Thinkin Bout You,” which was originally a was presumed to be a non-song was released in 2011. The single was remastered for the album reaching much commercial success still remaining Ocean’s highest chart-topping solo record in the United States. Three more singles were released from Channel Orange named “Pyramids,” “Sweet Life,” and “Lost.” Anyways, with this latest activity, Frank Ocean is bringing more attention to himself. You would think he just became comfortable with being an artist with a place in popular culture again. Still, there has been no major interview of himself. Coincidentally, he himself interviewed Jay Z on Blonded Radio, another music star that has recently eluded the spotlight.
Let’s compare him to someone on the other side of the spectrum. For some reason, let’s compare him to Drake. Drake is the modern music celebrity who thrives in this social media age. Like his music or not, he is a master at marketing himself and being active at the right time. He seems like he is involved in a chart-topping single each year. Drake and Frank Ocean aren’t comparable at all but the thing is, if you are a millennial in the U.S who listens to Drake, you at least know who Frank Ocean is. Drake’s popularity only has Frank Ocean beat at an international level and people over the age of forty. With him being limited in popularity, it makes me wonder if the reason is literally a lack of content or the content of his music. The purpose of me comparing Frank Ocean to Drake instead of comparing him to a pure R&B singer is because the talent level between Frank and his direct competition is pretty distant. The closest person that ranks out with Ocean on the R&B is Toronto-based singer The Weeknd. When you look at his career, you see a change in the way people perceive him. He still sings about being intoxicated and getting white girls to be drugged out with him. He’s been doing that since 2011 when he was releasing mixtapes. In his singles his seamlessly masks his drug love in his music. The breakout single that wasn’t featured on the score of 2015 film Fifty Shades of Grey “I Can’t Feel My Face” is a groovy record that romanticizes falling in lust while being inebriated. Frank Ocean will never make a poppy record. “Slide” was the closest song of that nature but I doubt it will catch massive traction when summertime comes even with it being a Calvin Harris single. Nowadays, a lot of the hits are surface level. The Weeknd is somewhat relatable but lacks the power to be transcendent. Ocean is transcendent but does not make pop records. Not every singer wants or needs to be a pop star. The Weeknd adapted to being a pop sensation flawlessly by slightly switching up his sound while keeping the same lyrical content. If “Thinkin Bout You” remains Frank Ocean’s most groundbreaking single how will he be remembered? In the music industry, albums become more outdated by the day since the sales performance of your album usually correlates with the singles that were introduced. A smash single will likely lead to a well selling/well streamed album, even if the album is mediocre. Frank’s albums are masterpieces in its own way. According to many reviews he hasn’t dropped a dud yet. 25 years from now Frank Ocean will be heralded as one of the most daring artists in his genre without ever necessarily being a major pop sensation. How will that pan out, though?
Without social media, the easy accessibility of music would be a lost cause. Frank’s music thrives on the internet. With the 3 year wait for Blonde/Endless, the only radical impatience was on the internet. Frank Ocean has been dominating in the wave of internet hits since his Odd Future days. As of right now, Frank Ocean still has no RIAA-certified platinum albums. His highest ranking is ‘Gold’ with Channel Orange. It’s almost been 5 years since the release of that album. Still, somehow he still praised as being one the voices of this generation. Artists like Bruno Mars, The Weeknd, even fucking Bryson Tiller has one or more platinum albums to their name. The fact that this is true leads a person to wonder how exactly is Frank Ocean important? He has collaborations with Kanye West, Jay Z, Beyonce, and countless others of successful artists. There has to be a solid reason why he’s not Michael Jackson status right now. Why is this not reality?
My guess is because he is so crucially personal. I said in the beginning of this article that he is not a mystery. It is because anything we have to know about Frank Ocean, we do know. Not being in the spotlight doesn’t make you a mystery. His mother and brother have twitter accounts and are very active. What singer do you know have their mom on twitter? All his brother does on twitter is retweet memes and give Young Thug hot takes. Frank Ocean announced his bisexuality years ago. Frank Ocean has no Twitter or Facebook accounts. He has Tumblr where posts sporadically. In one of his most recent posts, he expresses his disdain towards the Grammy’s for not awarding Kendrick Lamar for album of the year for 2016 and for disrespecting him for not entering Blonde for consideration.
Most of his songs sound like diary entries. He explains how he feels and details how he reacts to certain situations. He discusses past partners and his life as an artist, Everything we need to know about Frank Ocean is in his music. There is no mystery here. It’s just music that is louder than the man.