Saturday, July 07, 2012

Frank Ocean

There are a lot of things I don't understand. I don't understand Lawn Tennis. Yes, I know the players. Today, Serena Williams won her fifth Wimboldon title. I know who Federer and Nadal are. I even follow Nadal in Facebook. But, frankly, I don't know the technicalities of the game. Big deal.

The same way I don't understand the western urban music, the music that are awarded at the Grammy's. Okay, I know the names, I have heard some artistes, but if you ask me the technicalities of their work, I will draw blanks. I cannot differentiate R&B from Hip Hop, Rap from Pop, Heavy Metal from Punk. Or, perhaps I can; Eminem is nothing like Aerosmith.

The kind of music I listen to comes from recommendations, or from unsuspecting discoveries. I have had friends who loved heavy metal, Black Sabbath, Megadeth, that kind of stuff. I have a friend who has the Aerosmith logo tattooed on his arm. I have a friend who is mad about Rammstein, an industrial metal band from Berlin, Germany, though he doesn't know a single word of German. I have a friend for whom Jim Morrison is the God. I have a friend who agrees that Bruce Springsteen is indeed the boss. I have a friend who can sing Eagle's Hotel California backwards (To be honest, even I can sing that song backwards, and what guitar arrangements!); and there are other random names I can list. I love Sakira's 'La Tortura' song, even though my knowledge of Spanish is just rudimentary. The same way, more than an artist and a band, I am more open to like one particular song — like Air Supply's 'Making Love Out of Nothing At All', Dire Straits' 'Romeo & Juliet, Green Day's 'Wake Me Up When September Come', Red Hot Chilli Papper's 'Californication', Black Eyed Peas' 'Shut Up'...

Coming back to R&B and Hip Hop and Rap and other such things, there was a time when I listened to Eminem, and only Eminem, 'Cleaning Up My Closet', 'Stan,' 'The Real Slim Shady', all of it. Then, I fell for that guy, Akon, before he was Bollywoodised by Shah Rukh Khan in 'Ra.One'. I love his voice.

That's the thing. I don't understand music, melodies and tunes. What I understand are the lyrics and the voice. The voice.

The other day, while surfing, I came around an artist, Frank Ocean, and his song, 'Novacane'. I had never heard of him, or the song. I listened to the song, and then another one 'Swim Good', and then something happened. I heard the voice. How he pronouces the words. There was something.

Then I Googled him. And, that day Mr Ocean was in news. Apparently, that day he posed a note on his tumblr page saying that his first love was a man, and the news was all over the place. Frank Ocean had come out. It was an important moment for Hip Hop, black American music in general, which relies so much on macho-ness. Apparently, he is releasing his second album, first official (he released his first mixtape on tumblr for free download) 'Channel Orange' and had a preview with journalists. Later, one of the journalists commented how in some of songs in the album, he has addressed to a Him, as his love object, and questions were raised about his sexuality. A while later, Mr Ocean decided to come clean and posted a note in his tumblr page how he fell in love with a man when he was 19.

This is not a "coming out", he's does not say if he's gay or bisexual. He just mentions that his first love was a man.

This guy knows how to write. It's a brilliantly worded note, which promoted me to check out his other works. So, I downloaded the album 'nostalgia, ULTRA', it's supposed to be free so I can admit it. And, to tell the truth, I am listening to it, especially, the 'Novacane' song, and the song called 'We All Try'. This guy knows his stuff. Look at the 'American Wedding', he takes the music arrangements of the very, very popular 'Hotel California' and does a completely new track, a good one too.

Looking forward to hear more of Frank Ocean.

The Tumblr Note Frank Ocean posed.
Novacane in YouTube.

About Frank Ocean's "coming out"; Writes Tim Jonze in The Guardian: The first thing that strikes you about R&B artist Frank Ocean's coming out statement is that it doesn't read much like a coming out statement. Over the course of a few hundred words posted on his Tumblr blog, the 24-year-old singer never says anything along the lines of "I have something to tell you all … I'm gay." Instead, he writes movingly of a summer spent falling hopelessly in love with someone and the excitement, confusion and turmoil this caused: "I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together … And on the days we were together, time would glide. Most of the day I'd see him, and his smile. I'd hear his conversation and his silence." Anyone who has ever experienced the all-consuming force of falling for someone they feel like they shouldn't will instantly relate to Ocean's words – the declarations of love through tears, the assurances that everything will be OK, the other partner waiting upstairs. That both people in this tale are men doesn't seem important. The second thing that strikes you is that, actually, we still live in a world in which it really is important that Ocean is talking about another man. The worlds of rap and R&B which he frequents are not known for their tolerance of homosexuality, from Eminem rapping "Hate fags? The answer's yes!" to Chris Brown's recent use of the #homothug hashtag during a Twitter spat. Then there's the matter of Ocean's bandmates in the hip-hop collective Odd Future, who have become notorious for misogynistic and homophobic lyrics (Ass Milk's "Come take a stab at it faggot … I pre-ordered your casket" is one particularly charming example). Pop and dance music have seen plenty of artists stepping out of the closet but in the macho-oriented world of rap and R&B it's unheard of for a star to come out.
More Here.

nostalgia, ULTRA.was The Guardian's No 3 Best Album of the year: Admittedly, sometimes this heart would be broken and stuffed inside the boot of his car – as on the astonishing suicide song Swim Good, in which Ocean finds himself dressed in black ("Like I'm ready for a funeral"), tormented by heartbreak and on the verge of driving his car into the sea. Another equally crushing track is There Will Be Tears, win which Ocean discusses not just the pain of having an absent father but also the pressure not to let these feelings show. Over a glitchy beat and with heavily synthesised vocals, he sings: "Hide my face, hide my face, can't let 'em see me crying/ Cause these boys didn't have no fathers neither/ And they weren't crying," before offering the devastating line: "You can't be there, that's all you had to say to me." The album was personal, but it was also political. If Odd Future's frequent use of the word "faggot" unsettled liberal stomachs, Ocean was brave enough to stand alone once more, declaring on We All Try: "I believe that marriage isn't between a man and woman, but between love and love." You could argue many mainstream stars (Katy Perry, Lady Gaga) were expressing similar views this year, but Ocean wasn't one for bandwagons. On the same song he reveals a refreshingly honest stance on the pro-choice debate: "I believe a woman's temple, gives her the right to choose/ But baby don't abort." By coming out as pro-choice, but implying he was against abortion, Ocean was refusing to offer platitudes to please either liberals or conservatives. Such bold views are perhaps to be expected from an artist most of us know because he leaked his album on to Tumblr, frustrated with his label Def Jam's lack of support (the release was accompanied by a lengthy screed of the "Fuck you, Def Jam" variety). That act alone partly sums up the appeal of this strong-minded and courageous young star. Frank Ocean may have spent 2011 ticking all the right trend boxes, but Nostalgia, Ultra showcased an artistic vision that was his and his alone.
More Here.

The BBC interview of Frank Ocean:

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    Apologies for the off-topic comment, but I couldn't find a contact email for you.

    A while ago I put out an ebook of my writing, called The New Death and others. It's a collection of short pieces, mostly dark fantasy.

    I was wondering if you'd be interested in doing a review on your blog.

    If so, please email me: Let me know what file format is easiest for you, and I'll send you a free copy.

    You can download a sample from the ebook's page on Smashwords:

    I'm also happy to do interviews, guest posts, or giveaways. Just let me know what you'd prefer.