Having once been the whitest 12-year-old on a Caribbean island, my preference in music has had a tendency to flip flop but the Grammys have always exhibited a sense of importance to me. It was the righteous little bro to the Oscars; a gala that celebrated music and introduced songwriters to another level of the phrase “I’ve made it”. A lot of folks may tune out during Sunday’s ceremony because of the latest rule on T&A, but if you look closely enough you’ll notice board members have stopped funneling pop music to pay attention to true recording artists.
One of whom is Frank Ocean. The aspiring vocalist went from being a ghost writer to what The Village Voice called “an intuitive R&B stylist”, and he did that all off of a mixtape. His vision was intimate and his craft followed with a one-two of intense emotion. The result: Ocean’s debut charted at number two on the Billboard 200, sold 131,000 copies in just its first week and earned a half dozen Grammy nominations just a year after his first tape.
Hoping they don’t treat him like Kanye, here’s why Frank O deserves at least one gramophone:
The LP title Channel Orange reminds him of the summer he first fell in love.
If that doesn’t make you writhe with butterflies, then your first kiss was probably whack. Channel Orange depicted dark characters with cinematic storylines but the play on sunny coasts drew sentimental portraits. The realism was heartwarming, but damn if it didn’t remind you of being weird, scared and in love.
24 professional publications gave his debut a score of at least 4.5/5.
Pitchfork’s Ryan Dombal called him “one of the most gifted songwriters of his generation” and Beyonce publicly noted he was “an influence”. Critics know a thing or two but in this case, the hips don’t lie.
He covered “Radiohead’s Fake Plastic Trees” and it wasn’t a disaster.
We’re still waiting on a cover of “True Love Waits”…
His approach to songwriting is a form of unconventional bliss.
The recollection of love’s complications and the analysis of characters with rich kid tendencies and substance abuse problems were only the tip of his arresting take on storytelling. Channel Orange gave him a stage to sing about Dragon Ball-Z villains, drug-cooking girlfriends and teen queens endorsing “joy rides in Daddy’s Jaguar”, and in turn, he bridged the gap between a popular chart record and the concept of a songwriter’s album.
That falsetto could make anyone pregnant.
Wrap it in John Mayer’s fret work and the world just isn’t a safe place.
Some think his Nostalgia, Ultra mixtape was better than his debut record.
You could easily argue that Orange was a more definite exhibit of his influences meshing together, but the thing with Ocean is he has universal appeal. Not that he can only sing to the tune of both genders; his voice echoes with such a profound tone that it attracts… well, everyone, and Nostalgia achieves that on a higher level. One of the staff’s favourite stories is discovering Frank for the first time and hearing countless compliments at a festival a month after the tape’s release. And not just from those fascinated by the premise of OFWGKTA; metal heads, skate punks, indie guitarists and even the folk rock crowd couldn’t resist complimenting his voice or approach to pop.
His mid-summer letter on Tumblr muted the world and put his heart on speakerphone.
For once, music was slipped some honesty, and his open letter couldn’t have been more human. Plus, if you trip out over the Internet everyday, his Tumblr account should really be the only thing you keep tabs on.
He made ten-minute epics cool again.
Frank stepped into the lands of Jimi, Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, and brought back a standard. “Pyramids” is a masterful tune due to its hazy construction and inspiring layout and much like “Achilles Last Stand” and “Station To Station”, it removes you from reality. It was one of the most talked about numbers of last year and for good reason.
Of the 17 recordings on his album, only three feature guest appearances.
Earl. Mayer. Andre. Tyler shows up on the hidden number “Golden Girl” but who’s really counting? Frank O further proves you can make a studio record feel complete with just your voice and a drive to create.
Frank’s music is the closest thing to a modern revival of Stevie Wonder, Prince and D’Angelo.
A few other comparisons could be fired off but the main point of them all is to contrast the genius behind his work. Anyone can make an album but it takes an artist to make a record.
He reintroduced us to Street Fighter…
…and the importance of being you. If a girl doesn’t know who Radiohead is, she better have a cab waiting outside.
He brought a magnificent touch to late-night television.
Tom Breihan of Stereogum put it best: “It takes balls to perform a song that’s been at the center of so much news, especially one that just about nobody has heard. But “Bad Religion” is just a ridiculously deep and gorgeous song, and Ocean on-stage was so profoundly assured that it added up to a goosebumps-on-goosebumps moment. The Roots and a full string section backed Ocean up and helped him create one of the finest, most heart-stopping televised music moments that we’re likely to see anytime soon”. In case you missed it, here’s the set.
He made Coachella his “girl”.
Every trill dame in attendance shouted “Met her at Coachella” and got faded instantly.
He’s a creative type with an artistic impulse.
Jack White held a recent conversation with television’s Conan O’Brien and one of the main topics he touched on is an artist’s need to create something everyday. With an expansive audience, Frank took control of that reality and delivered something pure. He gave hip hop a new voice, presented old souls an innovative take on blues and most importantly, gave the Internet a new shade of music to swallow. Don’t kill his vibe 2013. Just give him a Grammy.