Preface: ok, so I changed my plans a bit and decided to write 10 short stories in 100 days (1 is done so far). At any rate, it means I’ve pretty much forgotten this. I still think its a good to write as much as possible, so I will intermittently be doing this. Anyways on to today’s topic
The Lyrics of Frank Ocean: I should stress that I usually cringe at any musical dissection. Mainly due to the subjective nature the conversation is limited to the basic distinction of whether or not the dissector likes the music. From there on out, it’s just an elaboration, or exploration of why he or she, does or doesn’t like said music. Also, I hate talk about music. However there’s something about frank oceans music, mainly lyrics that are a bit richer than say Bruno Mars…
Franky O’s music is by no means new. It is not a new genre, nor is it at the vanguard of some kind of new movement. Instead it falls pretty well under the umbrella of r&b. But it does add a new nuance to r&b. It may not be a new a new branch of rhythm and blues, but it could turn out to be a strange fruit growing on the end of a limb. His best known solo song is one he was never meant to preform. He wrote it for somebody I’ve never heard of. And released it only as a demo on tumblr. ‘thinking about you’, if you think about it, has the best lyrics of any r&b song in a very long time.
To make a large - and potentially pretentious - leap, it is closer to TS Elliot, and Rimbaud than Ne-Yo. The intro to Prufrock (let us go, you and I/ when the world is spread out across the sky/ like a patient etherised on a table) has been quoted to death, but for good reason. The flow (to put it into hip/hop vernacular) is one that starts of with rhyming couplets, and ends with a bizarre line that no longer rhymes. The important word, of course, is etherised, a word that stands out from the meter as much as it stands out from the allusion to the eternal (stars:eternal::etherised:modern) This is not new, or profound. It’s actually just 10th grade English with mr.hudson (my English teacher at the time, not the singer. Although I did see him at a mr.hudson concert, but that’s another story). The point however is that this wordplay has enormous prevalence in the music of Franky O. ‘since you don’t think I love you I just thought you were cool enough to kiss you, I got a fighter jet I don’t get to fly it though, I’ve been thinking bout you’ Ok, so the two aren’t the same. But my point is that is that when the normal love story is broken up by fantasies of fighter jets it has the same effect. The break with the meter, allows for things to stand out. For Elliot it was to create the juxtaposition between modernity and the eternal, for frank, the inclusion of the stream of flittering thoughts that flicker for a second, like sparks, is to make a poem about his thoughts, and to lay bare the process of thinking about her.
…see this is already getting a bit pretentious. Although I think mr. Hudson (again my teacher, not the singer) would be proud.
The best line in the song is ‘got a beach house I could sell you in Idaho’ it trips off the tongue in the same way that etherised does. When you hear it/ read it, its feels/tastes like umami (not being pretentious hear folks, have synaethesia). The other thing to note is, it doesn’t fucking make sense, there are no beaches in idaho. But it sounds awkward, and yet perfect. It’s a little bit, and I say this with a grain of salt like Rimbaud destroying the meaning of words to focus only on their sounds and allusions. Like in vowels, I doubt mr.o owns or has ever thought of a beach house in idaho, but it just sounds so right that you don’t notice the ridiculousness of it until you’ve heard the song for the fifth time.
His album comes out soon, if half of the songs are half as good, it will become my summer album