It is August 1st, sometime after midnight. Not a single set of eyes is fixated to the small television situated in middle of our living room — except for mine. There I sit in a sea of people who have come not for the reason not which I am here. Frank Ocean and I are having a staring contest; I’ll be damned if I blink first.
An hour passes as I give myself to this idle fantasy, unable to accept that which has been accepted by every other person occupying this space of celebration and glee: the album is not coming. Quickly arrives the time of the night when people should leave. The host should play that one Semisonic song where everyone sings the refrain asking them to leave then immediately following the song ask if they actually have to leave. Tonight, I opt for ‘Thinkin Bout You’, the melancholic chart topper from Ocean’s debut album. Tonight, I don’t want people to leave. Tonight, I want them to stay. This is no longer a party, it is a vigil.
It is almost three weeks later when I receive the text from my friend, “Frank dropped.” It had to be then. Near days after saying goodbye to someone important. At a pivot in my life where I could feel myself sliding off the fulcrum, of course Frank dropped.
Going into both albums, it is quintessential that you block out that this release took four years collectively. One cannot deny that Ocean’s antics were frustrating at times, but if you go into this album thinking that an artist was capable of not only reproducing, but also improving upon, an album as addictive as Channel Orange, you’re going to rob yourself of an optimal listening experience.
To best enjoy these releases, you have to take them for what they are. That being Frank Ocean once again exposing himself to us through music. These projects are meant to heal in the same way group therapy does. Ocean makes himself vulnerable as he dances his way through two full-length albums giving us the rawest, most naked form of himself.
This is what makes a great song/album/artist to me. The ability to consistently excavate a feeling from within me. When I hear Kendrick, I feel empowered. When I hear Chance, I feel joyous. But there is absolutely no artist on this planet that can make me feel more nostalgic than Frank. For almost ten years Frank has been making us remember what it smelled like when we first fell in love. Or what flavored chapstick heartbreak tastes like. Ever since the Lonny Breaux collection, Ocean has been dousing us with nostalgia. Songs such a Novacane, which can be found on Ocean’s aptly named mixtape, “Nostalgia, Ultra”, make the listener devastatingly reminiscent. In the middle of this sexual endeavor while on drugs, Ocean takes the time to point out, “been tryna film pleasure with my eyes wide shut but it keeps on movin’.” It is an incredible talent he has, to make even the most blissful of moments terribly sad.
That’s what these albums are, a collection of moments in which Frank has transformed his decomposed tragedies into those flowers that remind us of our first love. That’s why this music is great. Life and music are so intertwined, that we don’t even have to allow ourselves to, our mind just melds the two together naturally. We remember the moments and we remember the music that accompanied those moments.
That’s why I am not worried that this project took Frank Ocean four years. Or that it might not be as great of an album as its predecessor. Because when the rhythmic mantra of Comme Des Garcons hits me years from now, when I least expect it, I know I will be transported back to summer; a summer of fruition and incautious at its crest and unforgiving loneliness at its troughs. When I hear Self Control, I will be taken back to that first night under the stars. Because that’s what the best music is for us: a teleportation device.