Unless you’re Amish – or embracing a similar radical lifestyle that includes no social media – you no doubt saw the news and read the (face)books. The news that Frank Ocean’s muuuuch looooong awaited second album, Boys Don’t Cry (his first mixtape not technically counted as an album, for reasons I’ll explain another time) was reported to drop on Friday of last week. Good Friday was to have a new religious meaning for a new generation of disciples.
Yet Friday came and went with no spoken or, more importantly, sung word from our God. I then hoped this second coming might happen in the days following, that he and his music would rise again on Sunday – like Jesus, or a fresh tray of hot cross buns – and with it start an eternal cult-like following much like a Christian’s devotion to Jesus, or mine to hot cross buns.
Like any other religion there’s an inspiring back story that justifies its existence and following. Other on-line bibles have already given the chronological timeline of events but it seems none have blended it to include me as the main character. Weird.
It’s a modern day love story. One where I’m less of the love interest and more of the love interested. It’s in the fantasy-romance genre.
Let’s go back to where it all began …
Jay Z and Kanye West collabo’d on their still-joyous album Watch the Throne. Its exclusive list of just three guest stars were more special than Heather Locklear and her mini-skirts menacing their way around Melrose Place circa 1994.
The three legends spanned yesteryear (Otis Redding on the sample), today (Beyoncé smashing her vocals out of the park all the way to the moon and the stars … and to Mars) and, as it turned out, tomorrow (our boy, Frank) – not just once but twice.
As someone who can get ‘curious’ and ‘excited’ and other such euphemisms for obsessive compulsive behaviours, naturally my ‘interest piqued’. Who was this Frank Ocean commanding more spotlight than Beyoncé herself on this album? She even had the advantage of nepotism (but also the greater advantage of not needing it, I suppose). Why didn’t I know anything about him?!
Frank played an early afternoon slot on day one of Coachella. I just happened to have a ticket and be in the neighbourhood. Co(ach)incidence or divine intervention? I’ll let you be the judge and Judy. Unfortunately, it was the coldest day Coachella has ever seen/ felt. It resulted in a forced return journey to our hotel for supplies. All the while, Frank was serenading others from a small stage somewhere in the Californian desert. We (that’s what I call Frank and I) were to be passing shuttle buses in the day. So, yeh, it was a coach- incident of sorts.
He would have played this song, Novacane, which talks about two people meeting at Coachella and it all would have been proof that the universe can indeed be totally perfect.
And in an alternate universe with warmer Californian weather, it was.
‘Twas a summer Sunday evening in London. Frank announced a new track, Pyramids, from his debut album, Channel Orange. This song was an actual out of body experience (certainly not my first and, as you’ll soon learn, definitely not my last). I managed to return to my body long enough to immortalise the moment on Facebook as follows:
Holy shizen, YES!
In hindsight, it deserved more SSSSSs. Around 15 minutes later I did add:
Listen to 3.51 – OMG YES.
Then, after a moment of full clarity 20 minutes after that added:
Just one GIANT 10 minute YES.
So yeh, YES, YES, YES. That this status update was an entire conversation for one should only add, not detract, from the significance of the moment.
Frank unleashes his first ‘proper’ album Channel Orange and with it a band of loyal followers and at least one volunteer PR Manager. After all, I did update my Facebook cover profile to the album’s cover and talk about it to whoever was in ear shot. A printed copy even had prime position on my work desk wall. All this in the name of love and publicity.
This album was and remains like nothing I’d ever heard before. These weren’t just songs – they were parables, vividly commentating lives of privileged youth (Super Rich Kids, Sweet Life), addiction (Crack Rock) and – yep – love (Bad Religion, Forrest Gump). Many of the album’s songs about love were presumably inspired by Frank’s romantic affection for a man (gasp!) immortalised in this tumblr post before the album’s release.
The best representation of this now famous infatuation is the album’s first and, in my opinion-based-fact, most outstanding track Thinkin Bout You. My own affection for this song was immortalised in my own Facebook post in August 2012:
aarrrrmaarrrrgaarrrdddd! this song might be the most exquisite thing I’ve ever heard … at least this month, anyway
I was right about its beauty but severely underestimated its timelessness. Four years on it’s up near the top of the leaderboard in quietly-relatable romantic statements (“do you not think so far, ahead? Cos I been thinkin bout forever …”). Even though they sound almost nothing alike, this song kinda gives me the same vibes as a Robyn song. High praise indeed, oh my lordy wordy yes.
On Channel Orange Frank writes some of the most aurally-visual songs you will ever hear and his musical poems about love, in particular, are like a cinematic experience.
In addition to Thinkin Bout You, Frank has written two of Beyoncé strongest, most sincere ballads: I Miss You, from 4 (which I wrote about here) and Superpower from her epic, self-titled album. Superpower is one of the greatest declarations of love since I updated my Facebook cover photo to the Channel Orange album cover back in July 2012. They’ll both have stiff competition once I actually finish writing and post this declaration right here.
I also just learned he wrote a beautiful if somewhat guilty little pleasure of mine by John Legend and Brandy called Quickly. I always knew that song had an extra special something – I just didn’t know it was Frank O.
Sure, last weekend we entered a new unrequited phase, which is tough. Even Frank sings “it’s a bad religion … this unrequited love”. But like Frank, I’m thinkin bout forever.
So, my faith will remain blind … as long as I still have my hearing.