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More Myth than Man: Understanding Frank Ocean

When deep in thought, I always go back to Frank Ocean. An artist, whose lyrics transcend time, and evoke emotions that reflect our generation. Ocean’s sentiments about life, love, passion, failure, and introspection are all intertwined in his metaphoric lyrics. He expresses the unpredictability of the human experience and how as time passes, our memories slowly fade into the background of who we once were. 

If you don’t know who Frank Ocean is, I don’t blame you. He does everything in his power to keep his life private. He has somehow been able to create music that is so universal and personal, yet no one really knows much about him.

Frank Ocean was raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. He attended the University of New Orleans until August 2005, when Hurricane Katrina struck, destroying his home and his studio, forcing him to start from scratch. He relocated to Los Angeles where he began writing songs for other artists before then creating his own albums. 


greyscale photography of condenser microphone
Photo by Tommy Lopez from Pexels

After his Grammy award-winning debut album Channel Orange, Frank Ocean was on everyone’s radar. But not for long. He began avoiding public appearances and became known as an enigma, dropping music less consistently and secretively. Most of his music cannot even be found on Spotify. Prior to his success from Channel Orange, Frank Ocean signed to Def Jams in 2009, in what he recalls was the start of a “seven-year chess match” with his label. For years, Ocean went unnoticed and unpromoted by Def Jams until 2011, when he self-released a mixtape entitled Nostalgia, Ultra that started gaining traction. From that moment, Def Jams started paying more attention to him. Recognizing that his label didn’t truly believe him, he decided to delay his second album until the end of his contract. In 2016, Ocean released a 140 hour long live stream of him building a staircase, with an accompanying album for an Apple Exclusive. At the end of the livestream, he concluded his two-album contract and used the livestream as promotion for his independently released third album Blonde, the next day. 

An experimental and idiosyncratic album, Blonde tackles identity, heartbreak, trauma, and loss in a highly emotional array of music. As it is my personal favourite album, I admire his ability to invite listeners into his life story, without sharing many details. Ocean begins the album with a critique on materialism and hedonism and later segues into his sentiments on failed relationships. He compares the purity and excitement of a new relationship to a White Ferrari and the toxicity of a failing one with Ivy. Ocean reminisces on his youth through Pink and White and concludes the album with a reflection on his life in Futura Free. Ocean singlehandedly redefined himself as an artist when he began independently releasing his music and drifting from the public eye. It interests me how someone can be so deeply personable and yet secluded. Living in a digital age, our generation is so quick to expose our whereabouts on social media. We seem to know everything that others are doing and yet we don’t quite grasp how others really feel. Ocean leads a life of mystique. No one really knows what country he lives in, who he is dating, or what’s his next step. But through his music, we understand how he feels and though not knowing much about him, he is able to relate to so many. I can’t imagine how my life would be without his music as a place of introspection, relief, and peace.  

 

Emily Nicaso

Queen's U '24

My name is Emily Nicaso and I am a first-year student at Queen's University. I love the arts and am passionate about espresso and sitcoms.
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