[Opinion] Frank Ocean Is Not Singing Songs, Just To Sing The Songs
Two days ago London based media personality Max had an early listen to OFWGKTA affiliate Frank Ocean‘s forthcoming album “Channel Orange.” From that preview she gleaned the expected; that the music was superb, and also a bit of the unexpected.
“Frank has also opened up about his sexuality on the album, we think it’s brave and admire him for being so honest and sharing such a personal aspect of his life through his music. On the songs “Bad Religion” “Pink Matter” and “Forrest Gump” you can hear him sing about being in love and there are quite obvious words used like ‘him’ and not ‘her’.”
She also posed a poignant question immediately after her analysis – “In the world we live in now we can’t see this being an issue or why it should be??”
But oh, is it an issue, if only for the fact that we have to question if it is. I talked to several friends about it to a range of reactions, some cynical “I think the reporter is reaching,” to encouraging; “good for him.” Amidst the dustup of speculation was the artist himself, on the verge of a triumphant moment. If you were up on Twitter last night you witnessed it; his soul baring testimony of first, unrequited, “forbidden,” revelatory love.
When responses to that beautiful, rhythmic affirmation are “I’m not listening to his album,” I know that the “world we live in now” is still cold, heartless and afraid. Even seemingly acceptable sentiments are telling. “I don’t care, I just don’t want to hear about it,” is more a push back toward the closet door than a walk along the “higher” road where only the music matters. We would rather sing along to lies than face the real stories. If you want to know the truth, the matter IS the music.
This is for every time Luther sang “she’s the girl of my fantasies,” George Michael belted “I said you were the perfect girl for me,” or Ricky Martin intoned he was “thinking of her in leather and lace.” We reveled in those tales told on behalf of someone else; perhaps, as Frank noted, in a foreign language to the translators themselves. So much of art is self-exposure and we connect most to artists who give us a piece of themselves. And although their genius shone through the lies, sometimes I wonder what we lost the privilege of experiencing due to their restraints.
Ocean crooning his truth on “Channel Orange” affects everyone who’ll listen — those who identify and those who don’t. Hopefully for the better. The sooner we stop being deathly afraid of what we don’t understand, the sooner we can understand it. The sooner we don’t need written explanations of other folks’ sexual preferences. The sooner they don’t feel the need to provide them because it’ s not taboo, covertly or otherwise. The sooner we create that world Frank was talking about where “the babies born these days will inherit less of the bullshit than we did.”
That is why this is an issue. That is why it should be.
As a confidant pointed out this morning, Ocean is a writer of James Balwin-esque proportions. I, for one, am glad he doesn’t have any secrets he needs kept anymore. We can only hope he continues to tell his stories as he knows them, in his own language. Not just as a gift to those of us who enjoy his art, but an example everyone can get familiar with. Without the pronouns, this could be any of our stories. It’s just like he said, we are all the same “human beings spinning on blackness.”