Christopher Francis Ocean, better known as Frank Ocean, is a neo-soul singer-songwriter who was born in New Orleans. He has released one major album, channel ORANGE, a mixtape (Nostalgia, Ultra) and a few leaked songs here and there.
Frank Ocean’s style has been described as ‘idiosyncratic’– meaning that the way he writes is a bit eccentric and his way of writing is distinctly his own. He is witty and poetic with his lyrics. Nostalgia, Ultra focuses on interpersonal relationships, personal reflection, and social commentary.
Between Nostalgia, Ultra and Channel ORANGE, Ocean kept a low profile. He released various songs and didn’t keep up with social networks.
channel ORANGE and the story behind it was a defining moment for Ocean. Certain songs on channel ORANGE allude to Ocean’s experience with unrequited love– with another man. He posted a message on tumblr, saying “I don’t know what happens now, and that’s [alright]. I don’t have any secrets i need kept anymore… Thanks. To my first love. I’m grateful for you.. even though it wasn’t what I hoped for and even though it was never enough, it was. I won’t forget you.”
It was a very brave and controversial move and only deepened the mysteriousness about him– and gave people a better understanding of his lyrics. He opened doors for the hip-hop world.
Members of the hip-hop industry responded positively to the announcement. Russell Simmons, a businessman in the hip-hop industry, said in the Global Grind : “Today is a big day for hip-hop. It is a day that will define who we really are. How compassionate will we be? How loving can we be? […] Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear.”
His lyrics on channel ORANGE have themes of love, longing, and misgiving. For example, in his song “Forrest Gump”, he writes it from the perspective of Forrest’s love interest, Jenny (from the movie).
He says “Forrest Gump/ You run my mind, boy…”. In the movie, Forrest kept running for no reason. He is saying that this person is running through his mind, seemingly endlessly.
“I was screaming run forty-four/ But you kept running past the endzone/ Oh, where’d you go Forrest?… I won’t forget you”. Ocean was referring to the part of the movie where Forrest caught the kick off but didn’t stop at the end zone, and references this to his own feelings. This person had Ocean’s heart, but ultimately ‘ran’ past him, rejecting him.
Each of his songs reveal his very personal feelings but does so in a way that is clouded in metaphorical language and presented with musical undertones.
“It succinctly defines me as an artist for where I am right now and that was the aim,” says Ocean about channel ORANGE. “It’s about the stories. If I write 14 stories that I love, then the next step is to get the environment of music around it to best envelop the story.”
Alicia Keys highly praises Frank Ocean in the New York Times.
“As a lyricist you love to hear other great lyrics or other great concepts,” she said. “I really appreciate Frank Ocean’s lyrical style… I appreciate the way that he can kind of draw you into this personal space, but it’s still lyrical. It’s almost poetic, in a way, but it’s very personal at the same time.”