they h9 them. that's more than h8, woah.
i'll be frank about Frank Ocean, i honestly couldn't name any of his songs.
tracking back all my interactions with music, i've just never been all that stoked about music, tbh. back in my secondary school days when my situation was v much the whole "UHM ok, what can i do today to get ppl to like me pls and thx", i'd viscously force myself to care about the top 40 charts. knowing what was making waves in the charts was, to me, the secret to social superstar success.
music has been a liquid part of my life that i haven't ever sat down and majorly reconciled the aesthetic gloss of tunes to their symbolic significance. folks lock their doors and dart to the office, melting on the train into a blob of numb, existential dread, they'll always have their headphones on. i could never understand when all my mates would cri evrytim when a new album drops of their favourite artist, or ugly cry into the depths of eternity when their favourite singer touches them during their tour. i just sit there with the same expressions as my man Drake up there. :(((
so when all the fire was being made about Frank Ocean, i was there being all ??? wut is going on now. all the charge brought me back to the deafening days of December 2013, when Beyoncé, through the thickly silent depths of the plastic pop market, shoved into it - whether it wanted it or not - a dialogue on how music is not only produced and manufactured, but located, consumed, absorbed, and configured into the everyday familiarity of people's lifestyle. music has, when lodged into capitalist spaces like Billboard charts and streaming figures, emerged as an art form rendered visceral and sticky. people would listen to a track for 15 seconds then do a quick tweet to get into the hype, before locking their phones. waiting for the next fire to light.
before they imploded, i found myself being roped into bashing out an article with the headline Talk to Frank? How Frank Ocean is Changing Music Press for the guys over @ Mode a few weeks back. typically, my articles on the site didn't take all that long to power through. minimum 1 hour for the buzzier stuff, max half a day for the denser pieces. approaching this, i didn't expect myself being so drawn in. Ocean's narrative the he's crafted for himself over the years jettisons away from what typically informs the conditions of hip hop. think asphalt hyper-masculinity, gritty visual displays of misogyny, and the normalisation of objectification of an other's body. Ocean enters this ideology, his body a site of intersecting scopes of identity; queerness, maleness, blackness. struggling to find a referential point in this all, Ocean took to his work. his art. his music.
his music becomes an environment in which Ocean negotiates his identity with, and with identity, it's personal. Jean-Paul Sartre suggested that freedom is a sensation that we feel, and if our self was to align with our identity, then we wouldn't be free. we wouldn't be able to make choices and figure ourselves through the many spaces and phenomena we encounter in the world. if your self was the same as your identity, then you wouldn't be free. you wouldn't be free to be able to pound the pavement to make mistakes, realise parts of yourself, be the person you want to be, even though you aren't.
So my sister is a fucking G. Beyoncé , the visual album out now.
— solange knowles (@solangeknowles) December 13, 2013
so when Beyoncé dropped her self-titled album, she did so by jumping straight over the press. an aspect of the music production line that tends to frame musicians. i mean, just look at the track record of Taylor Swift. after the #KimExposedTaylorPartyGateOf2k16, the press despised her. they hissed at her snake-like behaviour and interrogated her principles (i'm having to restrain myself here y'all, i really don't like her). yet, 'Taylor Swift© Being Just Like Us by Doing Jury Duty' is bleeding through the press rn. lol so Buzzfeed, do u want me to like her or not pls. she's either a reptilian overlord, granddaughter to Hillary Clinton and a deadpan white feminist, or #JustLikeUs.
the music press is designed to craft new consumer desire and drive it into the lived-experiences of folks. bolting it into their psychologies. reconfiguring how folk perceive their lifestyles; viewing them more as commodities than practical contact with the world around us. back in 1975, Bruce Springsteen scored covers for Time and Newsweek; bagging the exposure he needed or his new album, Born To Run. the ink of mags was the only access his fans had to him, ya know, before the internet became a thing.
a can of Coke-a-Cola placed in an art gallery shifts our perspective to an awareness that it's art, it not of reality, not familiar. yet, place it in an advert, it sells us the unfamiliar. we think we can posses it. even tho it's impossible. as we build a worldview notified by ads, we provide capitalism a heuristic hold over us. establishing its hierarchial power. us and the system.
when Beyoncé stripped the media of this power, the success and access of her album wasn't weighted or tied down to chat show appearances and billboard ads. it was only based on her fans. with the internet / social media providing spaces for fans to consume what they want to, and for the artist to produce and disseminate the press within their own autonomy. their marketing is organically circulated and absorbed by their fanbase, rather than from the framed bylines of the press.
Ocean let slip a few years back that we was releasing a new album, a successor to channel Orange. he was entering a music scene that, due to the ultra-visibility of Beyoncé, Rihana, Drake and Kendrick Lammar. their visibility was controlled primarily by themselves - erasing the obligatory press presence - i mean, just look back at Beyoncé. she bagged a Vogue cover spread without so much as an interview.
apart from vagueblog posts, a randomly updated website, Snapchat filters and a live stream that was deafened by someone's coughing, Frank Ocean's story he and his team were constructing was ephemeral and airy. lightly lofting in the background, Ocean made a few stints and gigs booked but kept his silence. the press had tight access to him, his fans scouting the internet, re-cicrulating anything they could grab on him.
when his album did drop, it was lit.
by silencing the press, Frank managed to preserve his own silence. his creative process was, through this story, shown to be savagely disciplined, and strictly linked to his self. heck, he even ghosted his record label, Def Jam, he kickstarted his own label, Boy's Don't Cry, and released the visual album Endless through Def Jam and Blond on his own label, bruh, Ocean's got no chill. Frank was taking to outlining his own creative loops that were not located outside of his own internal faculties. his narrative not defined or located by the press or a corporate label.
Ocean takes the music grind seriously. dropping Blonde, Endless, and his own zine, Boys Don't Cry. the zine was forged for Ocean to let loose his artistry and define his own aesthetic. Ocean's language and symbology is textured and dense. navigating BDC, you're met with un-aeshteitc imagery, lists of Ocean's fav films and jams, interrogations of neo-capitalism and neo-imperialism. the zine landscape is a space for him, Kanye West etc to explore their art unrestrained by a system that actively works to revise it. synergising their identities outside of white discourses that commodify, stylise and homogenise their bodies. presenting their own system of black and queer symbols, riding the waves and blazeds of art. playing to a beat of being themselves. the hurt of poc folk is actualised and unrestrained. the black aesthetic self-authenticated.
as Ocean leads this restraining counter-culture of music, he uses his art as a footnote to himself. Lamar and Brian Eno drop by in Blond, but their presence is quick. their voices vibing smoothly with Ocean's poetic lyrics and introspective soundscape. in his Nikes video, Ocean leans against a muscle car, sipping a Styrofone cup and donned in winged eyeliner. his identity occupies a gap between a binarist spectrum of feminine and masculine. even his self-labeled album occupies this in-between. referred to as Blonde and stylised as blond. his hair a neutral green. Ocean works to desensitise himself and his gazers from the strictness of gender.
and if screening the press is the first step, then i guess i'm out of a job. i tried ok mum.
copyright © josh milton 2017