One of most celebrated and successful musical artists of the 21st century, Frank Ocean, unexpectedly released the acoustic versions of his singles Dear April and Cayendo on streaming platforms and YouTube this past April 2020. The releases came just a week after releasing the vinyls of these singles on his personal website Blonded.
Born Christopher Breaux, Ocean started out as a songwriter, writing songs for musicians such as Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, and Jay-Z, in Los Angeles in his early twenties, and after a few years, he began writing his own songs. The New Orleans native joined the hip hop and skating inspired collective Odd Future, which also sold its own merchandise and at one point even opened its own clothing store on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles. As Breaux matured, he constantly improved and perfected his craft, from his debut mixtape Nostalgia Ultra to his video album Endless, he always looked for new ways to improve. His maturity indicates his ever growing desire to experiment and break away from musical conformity. His wide vocal range and his ability to mesh different different genres, ranging from hip hop to R&B, have also garnered Ocean a wide and loyal fan base.
“I think Frank Ocean is an incredibly talented, intelligent, and unique musician, and he is a great role model for future generations of artists,” said Yong Jun Xie ’21, an avid listener of Ocean’s oeuvre. Ocean’s ability to elicit a raw, vulnerable, and emotional response through his music has been one of the most defining characteristics of his music. The well crafted storytelling of his hit albums Channel Orange and Blonde follow this thoughtful yet complex narrative of the human experience. Ocean creates meaningful, unique narratives in each song. In Channel Orange, he focuses on the vibrancy and warmth of a young summer romance, whereas in Blonde, he abstractly tells a heartfelt narrative through the individual tracks.
Ever since releasing his hit albums Channel Orange, Blonde, and his video album Endless, Ocean has grown increasingly mysterious. He has remained increasingly elusive on social media and the internet, rarely posting or updating about future projects. The lack of a need to keep churning out songs for the commercial market, allowing him to write and create at his own pace, typifies his commitment to creativity and originality. As a free agent, it remains up to Ocean to release his songs.
It’s been nearly four years since Ocean released his last album. Since then, Ocean has chosen to only unexpectedly release singles, such as Chanel, Lens, Biking featuring Jay Z and Tyler the Creator, Purity with A$AP Rocky, and his rendition of Moon River. In late October and early November of 2019r, Ocean released the singles DHL and In My Room. The peculiar nature of Ocean’s music releases since the Blonde era has kept fans in constant anticipation.
Ocean initially previewed the two songs at his Blonded radio show back in October 2019. That same month, at his night club event PrEp+ in New York, remixes of Dear April by the French duo Justice and Cayendo by hip hop producer Sango were played. In late October, he released vinyls of the two singles on his website. For months though, there was no word from Ocean on whether or when he would release the songs. The acoustic versions of the songs exist on ‘Side A’ of the vinyls, while ‘Side B’ holds the Justice remix for Dear April and the Sango remix for Cayendo. As of now, the remixes of the two songs have not yet been publicly released.
The two tracks, like many of his songs, exhibit much of the emotional vulnerability dealing with heartbreak and infidelity. A relaxed, slower mood takes control as one listens. The simplicity of organ and guitar instrumentals allow for Ocean’s voice to really shine through. His soft vocals put the listener through a trance that taps our inner emotions and soul, reminiscent of many of his memorable songs.
“His new songs seem to sound a lot simpler, and they are packed with a lot more emotion. Despite the simplicity, the lyrics are artfully written and packed with meaning,” said Xie.
Dear April really reveals Ocean’s soothing, yet somber voice. The song itself deals with a relationship gradually slipping away. A mishap in the past has resulted in this relationship that will never quite ever be the same, and will never be how it used to be. No matter how much this lover profoundly changed Ocean, the emotional intensity that they provided will never return. Ocean’s raw and intimate performance promotes this heartfelt sensation as one listens.
Cayendo, which translates to ‘falling down’ in Spanish, depicts a broken, unrequited love. Much more relaxed than Dear April, with a very simple, minimal instrumental, the track switches between Spanish and English. Cayendo is the first Latin track that Ocean has released, and it is his first hit to reach the Billboard Latin Top 10. The dominating guitar instrumental, paired with the slowed tempo, causes Ocean’s captivating voice, full of emotion and passion, to echo. Feelings of melancholy and sorrow arise, creating a truly profound sensation.
As of now, we may never really know what Ocean has in store for his fans. He was expected to headline at Coachella this summer, which at the time of writing has been postponed to October 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. For now, whenever Ocean will next release music, fans remain hopeful that his artistic and creative vision will never go away. “I think he will soon produce something great. It feels like he’s working on something special, and I look forward to hearing his future pieces. I think that he has one of the more loyal fanbases who will continually support him and his work, and given that he is a talented, intelligent artist, I believe that he will produce amazing music in the future,” said Xie.
“I think he will soon produce something great. It feels like he’s working on something special, and I look forward to hearing his future pieces. I think that he has one of the more loyal fanbases who will continually support him and his work, and given that he is a talented, intelligent artist, I believe that he will produce amazing music in the future,” said Yong Jun Xie ’21.