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Frank Ocean: A High School Timeline

Courtesy+of+Genius
Courtesy of Genius

Courtesy of Genius

Courtesy of Genius

Barbara Lopez, Entertainment Editor

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  Five years ago, I sat in the passenger seat of my mom’s car and turned on the radio as she drove. Soft violins played followed by an instrument of immeasurable cadence and beauty: the voice of Frank Ocean as he sang his most popular song ever, “Thinking Bout You.”

  I remember being twelve and in love with this song: buying it on iTunes that day, playing it over and over again, singing it in the shower trying to hit those high notes as perfectly as I could: “But do you not think so far ahead? / Cause I’ve been thinkin’ bout forever.” But that was it. I never listened to any other song of his besides that one. I occasionally saw “Super Rich Kids” lyrics on Tumblr or Instagram, but I never thought much of his music. Until sophomore year.

  My cousin let me use his Apple Music account and I stumbled across a playlist: “Frank Ocean Essentials.” Given my love for his one song, I decided to give it a listen. What I did not foresee, however, was how much listening to this playlist, by chance, would change my life forever.

  The playlist contained the hits I mentioned above and even some of the songs he features in, like “She” by Tyler, the Creator and “No Church in the Wild” off of Jay-Z & Kanye West’s album, Watch the Throne. Next thing I knew, I was listening to Ocean’s debut and Grammy-winning album, channel ORANGE.

  I pressed play and listened to the 55-minute record from “Start” to “End” and after the album finished, I realized I had gold at my fingertips. For the next couple months, channel ORANGE was all I would listen to. I played it in the morning while I showered and got ready. I played it between classes. I played it during my classes (when my teachers allowed us to listen to music, of course).

  I fell in love with every idiosyncrasy: his voice, the sound effects of the static television, the lyricism. Everything felt real. His music translated into poetry and I found myself annotating each song—with the kind help of Genius of course.

  Regardless of the album as a collective whole, there have always been a few songs that stood out as favorites. The first one is  “Crack Rock.” His vocals, soothing from the start, recount the story of a drug addict and the struggle of coping with such vices. Although tragic to listen to, this song never fails to calm me down.

  The antecedent to “Crack Rock” is Ocean’s most notable odyssey, “Pyramids.” The first half of the track remains upbeat as he alludes to queen Cleopatra throughout. His balming voice juxtaposes the ecstatic and galvanic rhythms. But the second half is a journey of its own: a scratchy and ecstatic beat coupled with subtle, delicate vocals unanimously proves to be one of Ocean’s best songs.

  The final song that stands out is “Forrest Gump.” The track not only alludes to a certain beloved film but is also serves as Ocean’s ode to coming out of the closet.

  Throughout the entire record, he refers to women. But this penultimate track speaks of a boy, Forrest, who seems to be the only person on Ocean’s mind. Apart from the song, his release of the record was paired with personal and tragic coming out letter he posted on his Tumblr, revealing a prominent heartbreak.

  In 2016, I was sitting in a hammock in my cousin’s backyard. It was summertime. August. I did a routine Snapchat check when I saw people posting about it: Ocean had self-released his second studio album, Blonde. I almost fell out of the hammock. Within five minutes I had downloaded the album and began listening to it.

  I skipped around and landed on the fourth track, “Solo.” Its sanguine rhythm paired with Ocean’s melodic voice brought me optimism, which is exactly how I felt upon hearing “Nights.” His suave vocals and lively beat make it a certified jam even to this day. Both songs empowered me. And I listened to the record all summer long.

  Other songs, however, were not as sunny. As soon as I landed on “Self Control,” I found my mood shift as I reminisced old friendships and relationships. Featuring Swedish rapper Yung Lean and Slow Hollows guitar-man Austin Feinstein, the ballad presents a yearning Ocean singing of unrequited love.

  Yet the nostalgia really hit with “White Ferrari.” A balanced mix of anguish and euphoria, Ocean speaks to a past relationship—and you can certainly hear it in his sorrowful voice & lyrics: “I care for you still and I will forever / That was my part of the deal, honest / We got so familiar /

Spending each day of the year, White Ferrari.”

  The last line alludes to The Beatles’ song “Here, There and Everywhere.” When asked in an interview with Time 100 Gala, which artists inspired him during the creation of Blonde, Ocean referenced the iconic British rock band along with Stevie Wonder and The Beach Boys.

  Since his release of Blonde, he has self-released five singles touching upon different subjects from questioning his sexuality to bicycle metaphors to covering Johnny Mercer’s song, “Moon River.” His fans are always waiting—as am I—to see what he’ll unveil next.

  If you have not already guessed it, Frank Ocean is one of my all-time favorite artists. His music, inspirational and evoking pathos, has stuck with me through all my trials and tribulations. Beyond the instrumentals and his renowned smooth voice, his lyricism reads as pure poetry—some of the best I have ever read.

  

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