Why don’t I love Frank Ocean?

[Random, I know. I wrote this sometime last year, thought of it today, realized I never published it anywhere and decided to post.]


As the title of this post suggests, when it comes to the music world’s love affair with Frank Ocean, I am mystified. The Ocean lovefest is like a party I’m not invited to. Or perhaps I received an invitation, I just can’t figure out how to get there.

The thing is, I can appreciate the idea of Frank Ocean. His music is artsy, atmospheric, intricately arranged and abstract in a way that so much of today’s oversimplified drivel is not. But the reality of Frank Ocean is a different story. I skip the “Watch the Throne” songs he appears on mainly because he appears on them, and even after listening to his solo albums I’m still perplexed as to why every music journalist placed “Channel Orange” at the top of their year-end best albums list, Jay-Z and Kanye chose him to appear on TWO tracks and the Grammys doled out six nominations.

Is he really that great, or is music nowadays just that mediocre that someone doing something marginally unique is universally praised?

I guess my main issue is that I don’t like Frank Ocean’s voice. Which is kind of an important part of the equation. The excess vibrato and the fake accents — check the hook on Jay-Z’s “Oceans” above — are a serious, serious problem. Another problem is that, while good music can easily reduce me to tears, I feel almost nothing when I listen to Frank Ocean. As sensitive as I am to the power of music, I’ve never heard a Frank Ocean song that gripped me or moved me in any way.

And that’s not to say that Frank Ocean’s music is not interesting and different and it doesn’t sound nice, but there’s just something about it that feels detached and cold. For me, his songs are the sonic equivalent of seeing the world underwater — everything beautifully distorted, I just don’t know what I’m looking at.


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