In between somber lines and poetic verses, in the middle of it all, is a storytelling of emotions so relatable and mundane — love, nostalgia, remorse — by a 28-year-old caught in the same dilemma as any of us.
I care for you still and I will forever
That was my part of the deal, honest
We got so familiar
Spending each day of the year, White Ferrari
Maybe it is this bluntness that makes Frank Ocean’s music so compelling. There is always difficulty in elevating something as commonplace as one’s angst to society or one’s expectations in relationships into art, but his music is easy to appreciate knowing where he’s coming from. His songs are as organic as his tumblr posts, his vocals as raw as his emotions.
Come to think of it. It’s been more than a month since the release of his latest album “Blonde” and yet, every time I decide to listen to it, it always gives me a momentary flashback into all the wrong decisions I’ve made, into every relationships I’ve failed, into every disappointment the world has given me. And I’m not mad about that. Blonde is a permission to feel things you would often suppress, an invitation to soak up the bad vibes and wallow in it to realize your own brand of human.
I thought that I was dreaming
When you said you loved me
It started from nothing
I had no chance to prepare
I couldn’t see you coming
It started from nothing
I could hate you now
It’s quite alright to hate me now
When we both know that deep down
The feeling still deep down is good
Although the tones of loneliness and nostalgia are recurrent, Blonde is not suicidal. Instead, it gives off optimism, the kind of optimism that brushes off your skin gently, like a slight push or a whisper to the ear. It works like a subtle encouragement to be more honest to yourself and look back on your own stories without remorse or regret. It’s not difficult to imagine Frank as a heaven-sent, cool, guidance counselor with his angelic voice crooning — be it about sex or the combination of pussy and cocaine (Pink + White). In the realm of Channel Orange and Blonde, there is no stigma in talking about drugs or admitting your sexuality, for these are mere recognitions of reality.
At times, Blonde can also be too abstract. His lyrics are drawn from personal experiences and he knot all these into deep symbolisms and obscure sounds. But instead of confusing, it effects the album in artistic ways. Blonde reeks of Frank Ocean’s musical personality, and as much as Frank is lost in his own stories, so are we.
It’s easy to humanize a celebrity like Frank because he imbibes a genuine desire to express himself for that reason alone. You can feel him scrambling in all these memories, trying to make sense of it all, and in a way that’s cathartic. In each of us lies a piece of Frank, no matter how ugly or beautiful, that continuously attempts to make sense and accepts and change things. He reminds me of a melancholic Holden Caulfield, but more collected. In every song, you can imagine him in his apartment alone, waiving the technicalities in producing a song to make way for his creative process, regardless of how long and how tedious. You can imagine him writing each song in pen and paper, or waking up in the morning to play with his keyboards and nothing more. You can imagine his dark skin being bathed in sun beams while he plays his favorite songs for inspiration. It’s tempting to find beauty in his loneliness.
There is always a certain allure in seeing a private person open up to the world, and Frank Ocean’s music is nothing but a stark contrast to his public persona. You can call his album outrageous or disoriented, but not him.
No matter how many times I listen to his songs, my fascination only continues to grow by how something so lonely and obscure can be so beautiful, in any kind of standard. It’s gratifying to be able to feel so much through music. I cannot help but bring to mind the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi in every turns of his album, that in brokenness and scars there spring forth the art of imperfection. Never mind the bouts of oddity. For some weird reason, it actually works, from the auto-tuned Nikes to the marijuana skit. Honestly, this is what we came for. An artist’s labor of love always contains misconstrued messages, and we are always excited to interpret.