Frank Ocean, lost at sea

By Saketh Vasamsetti, Columnist

Singer and songwriter Frank Ocean released his debut album “Channel ORANGE” in July 2012. The album was critically acclaimed and won Ocean a Grammy for “Best Urban Contemporary Album.” Ocean rose to stardom immediately with a new wave of fans craving more.

Ocean responded, however, by essentially disappearing from the public eye. He stayed underground for the next four years,  and Frank Ocean soon seemed like a forgotten name.

It wasn’t until this past July when fans finally received a real clue from the mysterious  Ocean about possible new music.  His website posted a picture of a library due-date slip with multiple dates crossed, leaving “July 2016” as the only date left.

July 2016. New Frank Ocean. Hope.

It was at this point when the internet began to pick up on the anticipation. Frank Ocean’s highly anticipated album “Boys Don’t Cry” was set for release. Or at least we thought. July passed, no album.

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Through the rest of the month and into early August, Ocean’s website posted obscure livestreams of an empty room with workbenches, sometimes having Ocean present and sometimes not. Reports of album drop dates surfaced but all passed … still no album.

Frank Ocean’s rumored album release started to trend across every social media platform. People complained about the tiring wait for four long years without new music from the artist. Organizations like Snapchat even put out customized filters poking at the artist for the delay of the release.    

People were now annoyed.

The wait kept going until August 19, when Frank Ocean released an 18-song visual album titled “Endless” exclusively on Apple Music. As if to apologize to his fans for the lengthy wait, Ocean released a music video for a new song called “Nikes” the next day and immediately followed with another full length album called “Blond.”

While neither of the projects was titled “Boys Don’t Cry” as formerly thought to be, Ocean reported that “Boys Don’t Cry” was a separate project soon to be “released.” Both “Endless” and “Blond” received amazing feedback from fans and critics. It took him four years, but Ocean delivered.

Personally, I loved both projects. Ocean continues to impress his fans while putting his name down as one of the most successful singers of all time. But my problem comes with the number of delays that resulted in such a dramatic and commercialized release.

It obstructed the character Ocean built for himself. Despite self-releasing the album, one could make the case that Ocean was being a sellout. Around July, Ocean appeared to be part of Calvin Klein’s Fall 2016 campaign and people began to question what he was doing modeling instead of finishing his album.

Even before that, Ocean teased his new Boys Don’t Cry magazine followed by four pop-up stores that were to be opened in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and London. Ocean was trying his best to go from being hidden behind much of the other commotion going on in the music industry, such as the release of Kanye West’s album “The Life of Pablo,” to resurfacing as one of the hottest topics in the industry. To me, he seemed kind of desperate.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Frank Ocean. He’s by far one of my favorite musicians of all time, and he is a truly talented person. But as a consumer and above all a fan, I would have had a better experience listening to his albums without all of the hype and misleading announcements.

For me, the huge commercialized release masked the creative side of Frank Ocean. People who were overwhelmed by all of the anticipation took the opinion that the album was “overhyped” and that it was an upsetting follow-up. While a majority of that isn’t directly Ocean’s doing, it spurred from him simply delaying the album again … and again … and again.

We need more artists who are willing to share as much music as possible without all of the drama and commercialized releases. Kendrick Lamar is one of the biggest names in the hip hop/rap world with enormous releases like “To Pimp a Butterfly” in 2015, an album that earned Lamar a Grammy for “Rap Album of the Year”.

Less than a year later, Lamar released “Untitled Unmastered” with little notice. “Untitled Unmastered” was a collection of unfinished songs that didn’t make the cut for Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” but Lamar felt the need to share regardless. It’s artists like Lamar that keep providing audiences with an interest in their projects. We learn to appreciate their effort regardless of the output, if we are true fans.

In the end, Frank Ocean did produce two extraordinary albums, but he did it through a process that he’d be better without. It’s a trend many artists are falling into, and it needs to end before appreciation for music releases disappears altogether, just like Frank Ocean did.  

Saketh is a freshman in DGS.

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