By Jack Hutchison (@hutcho33)
Frank Ocean is mysterious individual.
By no means is he the first of his kind. The recently departed musical legends Prince and David Bowie were renowned for being very mysterious and unpredictable. These people seemed somewhat otherworldly but also fundamentally relatable. In particular, Bowie had the range of being able to produce mainstream hits alongside other, less mysterious performers like Mick Jagger, whilst also maintaining his peculiarity.
However in recent years it’s become much more difficult to create a vibe of mystery as effectively. He’s the only artist that doesn’t completely obscure his facial appearance (Daft Punk, SIA) to be able to arouse the amount of mystery that he has. Much of this has to do with how he releases his music, the complex stories/composition of his musical projects and his seeming disinterest in being in the public eye for too long.
His disdain for the spotlight is well documented, with any occasion of Ocean being interviewed being a delightful rarity. He did an interview with the New York Times in November of last year, which was his first written interview in three years.
Three years! He’s one of the most popular artists in the world and managed to do no interviews for three whole years!
The level of intrigue naturally increases, as casual fans have no point of reference or sound bite material to cling on to to unravel the identity of this enigma. Then comes the next level of crypticism, the music itself.
A reasonable and obvious starting point for this discussion is the release of Endless. After years of speculation as to when Ocean would release his successor of the critically acclaimed Channel ORANGE, a live stream appeared on a website called ‘boysdontcry.co’ of an empty hall. After about a month of staring at a blank room, fans were treated to the sight of Frank Ocean woodworking and building stairs to an all original, 45 minute soundtrack. This was Endless.
On top of the near Game of Thrones episode length visual concept album, the next day Ocean released the album that was rumoured to be Boys Don’t Cry, which was actually titled Blond. The video version of his opening song exclaimed “I got two versions”, adding to the immense intrigue already generated.
The start of the album is ominous, with references to deceased artists/public figures, The Little Mermaid, uses NBA star Carmelo Anthony as a metaphor for the women in his life, disses his parents and connects current attitudes on interracial partnerships to Othello, all in the first 3 minutes.
Ocean has been able to create and maintain a mystery that is hard come by in the era of accessible information. His lyricism and public persona all help to create an aura that may restrict his ability to be universally recognised, but do contribute to his overall obscurity.