Let me start by saying that Frank Ocean is one of my favourite artists, period. Ever since his retrospective storytelling on ‘Novacane’ in 2011, he has constantly delivered timeless music which eclipses anything his peers can produce (Sorry Miguel). His music is so contradicting that it somehow makes so much sense – vulnerable but firm, frail but assured, mysterious but overt, all at once.
Following his recent unshackling from the creative confines of Def Jam, Frank has been uncharacteristically active from a musical perspective, leaving fans in a state of dumbfounded revelry. As an independent artist, he has released his sophomore album Blond, appeared on the surprising Migos-assisted Calvin Harris pop smash ‘Slide’, and partnered with Apple Music to form his own radio show, blonded RADIO. This radio show has seen Ocean release three singles ‘Chanel’, ‘Biking’ and ‘Lens’, along with remixes from A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott and Young Thug all in the space of 2 months. This is coming from the man who gave us one and half songs in the space of 4 years.
Despite the absolute bliss brought by the unexpected de-hermitting of one of my favourite artists, one thing remains true: part of what makes Frank Ocean Frank Ocean is not just his musical ability, but the mystique that surrounds him.
Perhaps one of the only silver linings to the tumultuous storm cloud that was Ocean’s previous relationship with his label was the elusiveness that grew surrounding Frank Ocean as an artist. Never knowing when you would hear of a Frank Ocean sighting, let alone a new song, he became the most sought after commodity in the music world with fans impatiently awaiting his return from musical hibernation. In this way, Ocean became the testament to the strategy of scarcity marketing, which any first year marketing student could tell you is based on the notion of people wanting what is hard to get. Frank Ocean has historically been very hard to get.
But that is also just the person he is. He’s not your average joe; he loves old BMW’s, his closest friends find him almost impossible to contact, and he thinks the internet is an experiment. Why then should he confine himself to the typical routes of music distribution and promotion that are currently prevalent, especially if that means releasing new music constantly? As much as we, the fans, want more and more content, the truth is his music is powerful enough to stand the test of time. Hell Channel Orange was still in monthly – if not weekly – rotation until Endless and Blonde dropped.
Frank Ocean is no longer just an established singer-songwriter. He has emerged as a rebellious figurehead consistently forcing us to ponder life’s anomalies and uncertainties. In a time when new releases from different major artists are only weeks apart, someone who represents something so radical should not be rushed or feel the need to oversaturate our music sphere. Likewise, as listeners become accustomed to being inundated with new releases from their favourite artists, figures like Frank Ocean, are essential to maintaining a certain level of patience and equanimity when it comes to our expectations of artists. As internally conflicting as it is to say, when it comes to Frank Ocean, less is definitely more.