Ocean enters the frame for the third time this annum and, quite frankly, disappoints.
Frank Ocean has been shrouded in mystery since his 2012 debut Channel Orange, an outfit that entrapped a globe with its heart-wrenching vocals and sensuous lyrics of money, drugs and sex. This was followed by a four-year-long siesta that left the industry hankering for more – exhibiting only a paltry sprinkling of singles and features, it was clear that Ocean shunned the limelight – but his music was too impressive to lose. Constantly, rumoured release dates whirled around the media, rooting from his only non-music platform; Tumblr, all of which continued to be postponed and delayed. 19th August 2016 finally gave us the release of a visual album project entitled Endless, exclusively to Apple Music. In what was described as a “seven-year chess game”, Endless, saw the end of his alliance with record label Def Jam, enabling the freedom to release the highly-acclaimed, second official studio album, Blond – which debuted on 20th August 2016.
Since Blond, Ocean seems to be attaining a much more overt role in his public persona – headlining several festivals over Summer 2017 and presenting his own radio show on Apple Beats 1. The latter has proved to be his most crucial in the past few months, ending each show with a new single – commencing with Chanel, a lascivious tale of his open sexuality; “I see both sides like Chanel” – a hook that is a seemingly obvious reference to his bisexuality. The next single, Biking, featuring rap star Jay Z and fellow Odd Future clique member, Tyler, The Creator – a mood-provoking piece that allows him to continue his vision whilst delving into the influence of the features. Chanel is brilliant, it adheres to the same style of Blond. Biking is okay, not my favourite but is refreshing seeing Ocean work with two great artists. Then comes Lens.
By no means is Lens a ‘bad’ song, it would be very difficult to establish any of Ocean’s efforts as ‘bad’. The song is built upon a lullaby-esque keyboard, reminiscent to Good Guy from Blond, layered with what can only be described as 2008 Kanye vocals, synthesised to the Nth degree. There is no need for this outdated style, especially when he has the capabilities demonstrated in all previous work, from the mellow hums exhibited in White Ferrari to the belting melodies of Bad Religion. Ocean recently elaborated in a recent interview that Channel Orange was rushed and lacked any real coherence, despite its vast popularity. Unfortunately, it feels like he has reverted back to that – the sheer maturity and expertise emitted from Blond makes this track feel like an insult, like its one for the festivals and radio, not his dedicated listeners.
Frank Ocean is one of my favourite artists, his unconventional visions to surpass the mainstream codes are what make him so unique. The challenges he has faced with both fame and sexuality are almost so personal it feels as if we are intruding as an audience when listening to his work. I sincerely hope Oceans creative flow isn’t drying up, and that this is only a strategical blip in his already illustrious career.