I’m on record as being fully supportive of Frank Ocean, above and beyond the pop-cultural flareup in the wake of his semi-coming-out announcement. In fact, I’d like to ask that you read the concluding line of my review without the 11th-hour editorial addition stricken below—
Ocean isn’t reinventing the R&B wheel — and his recent coming out and acknowledgement of same-sex romances has certainly made him headline news — but he’s taking the shiny rims off and letting it spin a little more freely.
—because I purposefully wrote the review without any mention of Ocean’s personal revelation. I felt that the album itself was a really impressive work, which deserved attention on its own merits, rather than simply as the starting point for a discussion about his sexual preference(s).
(Plus, the part my editor inserted into my conclusion monkeyed up what I thought was a nice little turn of phrase.)
In any case, I read the (sort of) recent GQ interview with Frank Ocean and was, once again, struck by the man’s thoughtful approach to what he does. His music expresses that in a variety of ways, but the quote below articulates it literally, and pretty impeccably.
Note: I let the John Mayer mention (and the album guest spot) slide. He’s still a young guy; I imagine he’ll dig deeper next time around. But I still don’t understand how John Mayer gets this kind of nod from people I otherwise respect, like Ocean, Questlove and Dave Chappelle; seriously—what is the appeal?
You’re something of a perfectionist, I gather.
John Mayer and I were talking in rehearsal before SNL, and he was like, “You love to take the hardest way. You don’t always have to.” But I don’t know about that. It’s like Billy Joel says in that song “Vienna.” When the truth is told / That you can get what you want or you can just get old. We all know we have a finite period of time. I just feel if I’m going to be alive, I want to be challenged—to be as immortal as possible. The path to that isn’t an easy way, but it’s a rewarding way.
I never think about myself as an artist working in this time. I think about it in macro. I feel like Elton John just made “Tiny Dancer.” He just made that shit like last night. Jimi Hendrix just burned his fucking guitar onstage. Right? Freddie Mercury just had the half mike stand in his hand in the fucking stadium. Prince was just on the mountain in “Under the Cherry Moon.” And I was there. That’s how I look at it. Like this shit just went down. You see the mastery that I’m surrounded by? How on earth am I going to take the easiest way? A friend of mine jokes that I have a painstaking royalty complex. Like maybe I was a duke in a past life. But all you have is 100 percent. Period.