Written by Tom Maher
Cover image by Petra Collins
Frank Ocean, born Christopher Edwin Breaux, is widely recognised as one of the most electric, emotionally captivating artists of a generation. His eccentric, introspective song writing has led him to become the poster boy for modern R&B as well as progressing the genre through his experimental approach.
It is these very idiosyncrasies that have allowed Frank Ocean to sell some of the most highly regarded alternative music of the last decade. From the critically acclaimed “Nostalgia, Ultra” to the Grammy award winning “Channel Orange” to his magnum opus “Blonde” that was released August 20, 2016. Blonde has a strong place in my heart and signals the changing attitudes of a progressive society that tolerates the eccentricities of people’s identities. Not only does it break the boundaries of avant-garde music through its incredibly dynamic production, but its touching lyrics fixate on a range of very human issues which has allowed Frank to entrench himself into peoples lives and touch their hearts.
Frank possesses an incredible talent to generate atmosphere with his music; records such as "Nikes" offer an introspective view into the artist's life while the tragic "White Ferrari" features great emotional complexity as the track speaks volumes about love and perpetuity. Much of his music is moulded around the themes of heartbreak, addiction and his tumultuous upbringing and Frank's unparalleled artistic vision is vital to communicating these ideas as intended.
So, that may be all well and good, but it begs the question. What about Frank Ocean makes him such a captivating figure? Some may say, as stated earlier, it is the quirky, unique music production that draws people in. However, it could not simply be explained by just his music, right? A generation of young people that are so heavily invested into an artist’s life must have more than one explanation.
Well, unsurprisingly, you would be right to assume there is more to it. Frank Ocean is one of the most reclusive icons on the planet, he very rarely is seen in public and this has only promoted people’s curiosity. So, how did an accomplished writer become a reclusive superstar? From the release of Channel Orange, Frank Ocean had already cemented himself as a cultural icon. When an artist gets this sort of admiration so swiftly, they tend to become more vocal and narcissistic but for almost four years after this album, he essentially disappeared.
He lived in a stripped apartment in London and began chasing the perfect sound, he began to take control of his business ventures and replaced his management, lawyer and publicist while trying to negotiate himself out of his deal with record label, Def Jam. Not only did he buy out his contract but was also entitled to all his masters. However, there was one minor flaw in the contract, Def Jam would publish his next record, “Endless”, which was a visual album only available on Apple Music.
Then, the unthinkable happened, a mere two days after the release of Endless, Frank dropped his most polished work to date, the critically acclaimed “Blonde” which was full of heart-wrenching, beautiful and raw expression. I think Frank Ocean is what I want music to be, a true and raw expression of emotion. Similarly, to his music, Frank is often ambiguous and has been able to create a mystique which is hard to do in an era that is flooded with the internet.
I think it is foolish to try and characterise or predict his next move, especially after the untimely passing of his brother. With Frank Ocean, nothing is certain apart the fact that he was born to make music and, to put it simply, he is a storyteller. Frank, wherever you may be, the world is waiting.