Throwback Record

Week of April 10

Stevie Wonder, Music from the Movie "Jungle Fever", 1991

5 Reasons Why That New Frank Ocean Album Is Way Overhyped

5 Reasons Why That New Frank Ocean Album Is Way Overhyped

Oh fun, another heat wave. IPhone tells me that it feels like 104 outside today. I thought I smelled barbeque walking on the street today but it turned out to be just a dude walking in front of me getting his shoulders unintentionally grilled in public. 

This is like, life-threatening hotness--a sign that we're in the heart of the summer right here right this moment. As we reach the extreme climax of the season, it feels inappropriate that we haven't had any outstanding new music lately to accompany us through this physical unpleasantness. It's only reasonable to crave for the comfort of some cool spiritual being. I think it's safe to say, the only way any of us would ever possibly want it to get any hotter, is if Frank Ocean's new album actually dropped. Because that shit is guaranteed to be fire.

Or is it? The new age of technology and popular/social media have somehow already convinced EVERYBODY that the new Frank Ocean IS going to win every single award next year (if it does get dropped), aside from these facts: none of us has actually heard even a clip from one song from the album; Frank has not released any solo material since 2012 (just to play devil's advocate... who's to say he still has it); Frank conspired with an almost-evil team of social-media-villains that purposely leak false information about the release of the project; Frank started a mysterious livestream that features quite literally NOTHIN'; and in the end, his team have been spreading rumors for the better part of 2 entire years now. But somehow, knowing as little as we all do about Boys Don't Cry (and who's to say that Frank's not gonna pull a Kanye, or more recently, a Drake, about his album title), we as a PEOPLE, have already granted so. much. unconditional trust and love to someone who's probably the lowest-achieving musician in history to have ever risen to such a pop-icon level. 

Now, don't get me wrong. One would be terribly remiss to say that I just don't like Frank Ocean. I'm a true Frank Ocean fan. I loved nostalgia,ULTRA, and I LOVED Channel Orange. I performed his songs with my college band. I officially declared the Grammy's a bullshit organization and a bullshit event after Channel Orange lost to Mumford & Sons (quite literally the worst band I've ever heard, but that's just me) for Album of the Year in 2013. Not only do I adore this guy's songwriting ability and unique (to say the least) artistry, but I also applaud him so much for embracing his image as the first openly queer/bi mainstream* R&B/Hip-Hop artist that has been popularly accepted by the generally public. The twist is that I just don't believe the hype. I'll believe it when I see it/hear it, but the truth of the matter is I don't see nothin'. I haven't heard new Frank Ocean since I was a freshman in college. I've been thinkin' bout new Frank Ocean since, and I've been lost. That new Frank Ocean will be that crack rock I need. Life would be sweet again once I've actually heard it. Oh, and don't be telling me "Frank has nothing to do with spreading all these rumors, it's just been his friends and fans". You're gonna tell me that whoever says that shit on Twitter or some other interview was not gonna need Frank's permission first? You're gonna tell me that Frank released that image of the "due dates", posted that bizarre livestream, and refuses to actively deny any rumors of the release amid people going crazy in front of his eyes, not on purpose? Please. As eccentric and low-key as Frank seems, he knows EXACTLY what he's doing, and that is, toying with all the attention. Sure, there's a very high possibility the new Frank Ocean will be the best album of 2016 (although saying this shit is hella disrespectful to the YoncéRadiohead, and you'd better be damn sure Kanye will be OFFENDED--and all of these artists are supposed to be at a much, much higher popularity/acclaim level than Frank Ocean), but I'll believe it when it happens. 

So now, here is my short list of 5 (music-related) reasons why all of us need to cool our jets and enjoy the album when it actually comes out, but take it off our minds for now. Because for what Frank Ocean has already accomplished, I don't think the man deserves the amount of hype for an album that nobody even knows whether or not it's gonna be released.

1. Frank Ocean is a below-average performer.

Check his performance at the Grammy's in 2013, and could you name one similarly widely popular artist that can't perform much, much better live than this? Now, keep in mind that Frank Ocean is a different kind of artist. He does not have the all-around performance genes that Beyoncé was born with (nor is his music really of the same style as the queen); he has a quiet and intricate personality that not only leads to the groundbreaking quality of music he can make, but also is bound to take away certain performance energy we expect from him. But also remember that we do have artists who embrace the subdued style that can still tear the roof off. Think Hiatus Kaiyote, Maxwell, Erykah Badu, or even Rihanna, who don't necessarily have to dance or shake the stadium to get the juices flowing. True, artists grow. Everyone needs to overcome their initial fear to let go of the inner demon. I'm not knocking Frank Ocean for being 20-something years old and easily embarrassed. Take your time with your performance growth, Frank. But that's just one of the reasons why all this obsession is a little premature. 

2. Frank Ocean is not as multi-faceted as a musician as we think he is. 

I might be asking too much from Frank Ocean at this point, but when EVERYBODY loves you so passionately and has zero doubts about you, I feel the need to ask for more from you. As far as I'm concerned, Frank Ocean can play the keys, but I don't know what else instruments are in his arsenal. Knowing how to play multiple instruments is more important than most know it to be, if you embrace your identity as a songwriter and producer. I get it: Frank Ocean's feel for melody is almost unmatched, and his songs TOUCH hearts. But looking at the personnel list of Channel Orange, all those people having helped work on the album, one can be damn sure that Frank Ocean is no Stevie Wonder. This is important because, if Frank Ocean was a better instrumentalist and played multiple instruments himself on that album, Channel Orange would've been even more cohesive as an album. One's relationship with a song can only be jeopardized by the collaboration with another individual, no matter how good that musician is. A song you write is yours and yours only, and your ability to do as much as possible to make your song the best it can be is the essential quality of a songwriter.

3. Frank Ocean is an only-okay vocalist.

Not much more to say about that here. Frank is not the best male vocalist out there today. He can drive tears to some eyes, but he can't sing the shit out of a song. Uh, what am I saying. If people can think Justin Bieber is a good singer, then Frank Ocean is a god.

*disclaimer: any mention of superstardom in this post does not and will never include Justin Bieber.

4. Frank Ocean has not displayed versatility... yet.

Having only heard one official studio album by Frank Ocean, we think we don't know that much about Frank Ocean. But the honest truth is, over the last 5 years, Frank Ocean has shown that he's pretty mediocre when it comes to releasing different creative energies. The entire Channel Orange took on a solemn, calm and slightly vague kind of vibe. Even the most upbeat song is kind of a downer (either "Crack Rock" or "Pyramid"). Well, hardcore Frank Ocean fans are gonna come to get me again with claims like "that's just Frank's style", but would you want to listen to an album that's just like Channel Orange once again? Or would you want something different? It's indeed a little unreasonable for me to bash Frank for not being versatile because at the end of the day, he's only released Channel Orange. But that's my point: chill, let's hear what else Frank's got up his sleeves first... then we'll talk.

5. Uh, Frank Ocean is no D'Angelo.

Up until the winter of 2014, I had gotten used to having my heart broken time and time again by the wait for D's album. Y'all think this is tough waiting for Frank for 4 years? Try 14 years. But it was only slightly more reasonable to anticipate D'angelo's album the way we did than we are to Frank Ocean's new album, because we're talking about D'angelo--a direct descendent (well, figuratively) of the greats and legends such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Prince, in terms of the ability to not only write and craft an unbelievably profound album but do so almost completely by himself. Oh, and not to mention him being the closest thing we got now to James Brown, when it comes to funking the soul out of a stadium. Frank Ocean is no D'Angelo, and Channel Orange was no Voodoo--and you'd better believe and quote me on that. Can Frank Ocean ultimately get up to that level? Let's calmly wait for the arrival of Boys Don't Cry, and we'll see.

OK, cut me some slack. I'm only playing devil's advocate here. Truth is, I also can't wait till Frank Ocean shows up again in my iTunes, and I'll buy that shit so quick I'll eat packaged ramen for dinner that night. But with everybody literally dying to hear Frank's new album the way we are? I think we need to take chill pill, let Frank be. Maybe once we stop obsessing over it like there's nothing more important going on (*cough* something else orange is also happening and that orange thing might become president), Frank will actually give us that album. Then hopefully I'll look back at this post and be like:

"You know nothing, Haozhou."

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