Keeping With The Current
Ocean Looks To Bridge Musical Gap
Published: Thursday, September 13, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
I was lucky enough to spend this summer in New York City, and I was even luckier that my two fellow arts editors lived in close proximity to the Big Apple. While we took advantage of numerous offerings around NYC (read Brennan Carley’s column from last week for more details), the one vein that we most avidly tapped was the city’s summer concert scene. Some of these shows were only my indulgences, like the free Central Park concert by Dawes, while other times the performer was a collective favorite of the group, such as Lana Del Rey’s 45-minute sprint of a show at Irving Plaza.
Then there were those acts that my editor friends were ecstatic to see and I knew nothing about, but, for the sake of seeing live music, I went to go see. One example of such a concert was Frank Ocean’s performance at Terminal 5.
I’m sure some of you more versed in the music world are appalled that Ocean would fall under such a dubious category for an arts editor. But I would be the first to admit that current hip-hop and R&B are not strong areas of expertise when it comes to my fine arts education (my fellow editors, on the other hand, are currently working on their doctorates). I have nestled into the nook of being the movie/folk rock/house music enthusiast of the trio.
But when I saw Ocean play that Thursday night, the same night the infamous “derecho” storm sped through New York (coincidence?), I was immediately hooked. Surrounded by ruckus and a sold-out crowd that knew virtually every word that came out of the soulful crooner’s mouth, it was nearly impossible to discount Ocean as just a flavor of the month. Until that night, I had never seen a performer get roaring applause for every song he or she announced to the crowd. It was nothing short of a musical phenomenon.
The late-July concert came just a few days after the release of Ocean’s first official album, Channel Orange, which sold 131,000 (legal) copies in its first week. The performance also came weeks after Ocean announced to the world that he was homosexual, a revelation that made a few headlines and brought a whole set of new meanings to his songs. Ocean has since began to make a name for himself nationally, making stops at Lollapalooza in Chicago and, more recently, MTV’s Video Music Awards. There seems to be nothing stopping this soulful songster with fantastic flow from continuing his vault into stardom.
While he only has one true album to his name, Ocean has been around the music game for quite some time. After looters destroyed his New Orleans studio in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Ocean elected to move to Los Angeles in 2005, where he eventually nabbed a songwriting deal to help pen tracks for the likes of Justin Bieber, John Legend, and Brandy.
It was also in L.A. that he met a broke and angry young rapper named Tyler, who would soon slap “The Creator” at the end of his name and helm the now-notorious rap group Odd Future. Ocean claimed that Tyler inspired him to continue writing and pursue a solo career. The singer then released his own mixtape, nostalgia, Ultra, earned Kanye West as a fan, and was signed to Def Jam for his full-length album.
R&B singers are a dime a dozen in pop music today, but what makes Frank Ocean so special is the type of crowd that is attracted to his music. It seems that Ocean, for the time being, has bridged the seemingly infinite gorge between indie and mainstream music—his catchy choruses attract Top 40 fans and his sincere lyrics fascinate more cerebral music lovers. In my corner of the world, it has given my friends, with usually clashing music tastes, something to agree upon.
While I know a few of you already have a well-established love for the avant-R&B singer, for the rest I urge you to give Frank a chance and dip a toe in the Ocean.