Pop-Ed: Frank Ocean

bill bodkin channels his inner music critic…

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Last night, Frank Ocean made his national television debut performing his song “Forrest Gump” on the 55th Annual Grammy Awards.

It was an epic failure.

The performance was horribly off-beat and off-key and sensing his missteps, you could see self-doubt and self-consciousness wash over the singer/songwriter.

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When he walked offstage, I put the following status up on my Facebook page, “To be blunt…Frank Ocean sucks.” I even went so far as to say that, after seeing him perform on The Grammys, I had zero interest in checking out his full-length record, channel ORANGE, which not only received high marks from national critics, but many of Pop-Break’s staff members as well as friends and tastemakers whose opinion I hold in high regard.

My rants were brought to a halt by radio personality, Asbury Park DJ and tastermaker, Mike Merrell, who threw down the gauntlet. Listen to channel ORANGE then make an informed, rational decision about Odd Future’s resident crooner.

So, 24 hours after Frank Ocean’s much criticized performance and after fully listening to his critically acclaimed record and reading enough articles and interviews to fully grasp what F.O. is all about here’s my new ‘status update’

Frank Ocean is…solid.

He does not deserve my scathing criticism and dismal, but at the same time I cannot see the unmitigated, over-the-moon love-in that’s been thrown for him over the past 365 days.

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channel Orange is a solid record. At times it’s really good, with really funky, soulful sounds, evoking imagery of Motown in its glory. You can almost hear the hiss, pop and crackle of old vinyl album on certain tracks. And this backing music really complements Ocean’s vocals. Its smoothness becomes velveteen, its soulfulness blows, 90% of the soul and R&B singers in today’s game of the water.

Then..there’s times where it just completely lacks. The soul and funk is replaced with hollow nothingness. There’s nothing special, generic beats and hooks, that lack any sort of heart. And Ocean’s voice sounds as if he’s singing into his MacBook Pro, recording everything and editing it up on GarageBand. It’s just really weak…and dare I say amateurish.

However, I figured there was one overriding thing about Ocean that people give his shortcomings a pass on — his bravery.

Coming out, admitting he had romantic feelings for another man, while performing in a very macho and sometimes homophobic world of hip-hop and R&B, took guts. And doing so within the lyrics of his songs, on his major label, full-length debut, was a bold and risky move. And when you go back and look at channel Orange through the filter of Ocean using this record as a vehicle to express his sexuality, you can understand the awkwardness of some of the vocals and music. This was a difficult process — thus slack should be cut.

However, this doesn’t absolve channel Orange from all its sins nor does this slack put it atop a pedestal of album awesomeness. Because at the end of the day what channel Orange is, a solid record that gives you a glimpse at what could be a lengthy and genius career. Frank Ocean, right now, is still a very young man and despite all his accomplishments and awards, still has a lot left to offer the music world and has plenty of room to improve on his freshman effort.

So I have been proven wrong — Frank Ocean, despite a terrible Grammy performance, should not be written off, but looked as a glimmer of hope in the music industry. Where he goes, whether it be legend or flash in the pan, is up to him, and I’ll be very interested to see where he ends up.

Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

1 COMMENT

  1. He is an auto tune creation, a fraud. The real shame goes to the producers of the Grammys who don’t see musicans perform live without auto tune. There were a number of so called singers hitting bad notes but his performance was the worst I’ve ever seen.