Are people still interested by which celebrity is and isn’t gay? The whole niche of ‘coming out’ stories satisfies that base need for titillation among the masses. But are there truly any real ‘coming out’ taboos left? How about a black male? Nah, not really taboo anymore. Then how about a black male, who also happens to be one of hip-hop/R&B’s rising stars? Hmm, maybe.
Its testament to his musical talents that Frank Ocean’s coming out [via a very eloquent post on his tumblr], hasn’t drown out the praise for his brilliant debut album Channel Orange. The album isn’t officially released until next week (July 17th), but Ocean has uploaded the entire album here, on July 9th, allowing people a free listen before they part with their hard-earned cash.
The album is piercingly soulful; full of easy listening R&B tunes, and contains some of the sincerest lyrics any artist has produced in some time. What does come across is his ability—as an R&B performer—to unashamedly wear his heart on his sleeve. He jumps between jokey off-the-cuff conversational tones in one verse, to painfully candid the next. The vocals on each track ease you in, and are seamlessly weaved between the beats, never rushed—a habit many of his contemporaries find hard to shake.
A native of New Orleans, Ocean’s talent belies his age, at 24 he already has an impressive list of credits, with hits written for Beyonce and Justin Bieber, collaborations with Jay Z and Kanye West, and an imminent appearance on Nas’ next album. A support slot on Coldplay’s upcoming European tour stands him in good stead to make a smooth transition straight into the mainstream music world.
Apart from praise of his obvious talent, Ocean will most likely have to get used to—for a time at least—an additional disclaimer about his sexuality. The reaction to his coming out has been mostly positive, with celebs like Jay Z, Beyonce, and Russell Simmons among those who have voiced their support.
Ocean’s tumblr post, at once elegant and honest, contains no naughty kid admissions that the press secretly wants. It’s honest and open, a man speaking of his experience of the timeless mystery and magic that is falling in love. It’s a man writing honestly and openly about his experience of the timeless mystery that is, falling in love.
On Orange Channel Ocean doesn’t shy away from the (unnecessary) complications that surround his love life, not least the haunting track Bad Religion, “It’s a bad religion/this unrequited love/I could never make him love me.” He bellows, just after begging a taxi driver to ‘keep the meter running’ and be his ‘shrink for the next hour.’
On the track Forrest Gump he confesses ‘I’m remembering you/This is the love I know its true/I won’t forget you.’ The voice is naïve, yet true, that of a man desperately unsure of his situation, yet doing all he can to better understand it.
One thing that we’re not unsure of is that you’re going to be hearing a lot more of the name, Frank Ocean.