Archive for July, 2012

On coming out: Frank Ocean’s note

A few days ago, Christian Bale visited a hospital in Aurora, Colorado, to check in with some of the victims from the tragic shooting that took place at the midnight screening of the latest Batman film.

Marketing ploy?

It’s getting harder and harder to tell these days. Marketing is getting clever. It wasn’t long ago that we used commercial breaks to jump up for a bathroom break or to grab a snack from the fridge. Today DVRs allow us to skip them altogether. And yet, companies have somehow convinced thousands to tune in to their spiel. McDonald’s has over 21 million likes on Facebook. Coca-Cola has twice that.

So when I heard about Frank Ocean’s now infamous “coming out” letter, I was skeptical. Not skeptical of the sentiments he expressed, his strength, or the authorship of the note. I was hung up on the timing of its release.

Frank Ocean (photo courtesy of the artist)

Though the letter was written last December, Ocean published it on his Tumblr account on July 3rd. His album, Channel Orange, dropped two weeks later.

Check out this screen shot (via the music tracking site of the chart for “Thinkin Bout You,” from his new album.

And lest you think the sharp increase in popularity coincides with the release of the album, here’s another screen shot, this time of “Swim Good,” the single that was released last fall.

Suspicious, no? The track nearly doubled in popularity at the beginning of July. Of course, proving Ocean’s announcement increased his listenership (in addition to garnering him a ton of press) doesn’t prove there was an ulterior motive behind it.

So I got my hands on the album.

Take a listen to “Thinkin Bout You,” the first full-length song from Channel Orange.

The words in the first hook are simple.

I’m thinking ’bout you (Ooh no, no, no)
I’ve been thinking ’bout you (You know, know, know)
I’ve been thinking ’bout you
Do you think about me still? Do ya, do ya?

But the emotion behind them is powerful. And the words in the verses have both a cool detachment (“No, I don’t like you, I just thought you were cool enough to kick it”) and a more vulnerable, heartfelt hope:

It won’t ever get old, not in my soul, not in my spirit, keep it alive
We’ll go down this road ’til it turns from color to black and white

And despite the straight-forward commentary on the plight of the poor, I can’t help but wonder if the track “Not Just Money” was also thrown onto the album with cynics like me in mind.

Please decondition yourself
It’s not just money
It’s happiness
It’s the difference between happy, being happy or sad

Despite the poignant announcement, Channel Orange is still rife with references to things like drugs, cops, and beautiful women with “big full breasts.” But I’m eager to hear what comes next. If it’s anything like the slow jam “Bad Religion,” which includes the line “I can never make him love me,” I’m all ears… even if the “him” in the song actually refers to God and not to a lover as many have speculated.

And one thing is for sure. Marketing ploy or not… I’m glad we now live in a world where coming out can boost sales instead of crippling them.


"He considered music a liberating force: it liberated him from loneliness, introversion, the dust of the library; it opened the door of his body and allowed his soul to step out into the world to make friends."

- Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being