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Essential Listening: Frank Ocean

Essential Listening: Frank Ocean

Fans of both R&B and hip hop will no doubt be familiar with this man’s contributions to music over recent years. His debut full length record Channel Orange offered a truly unique and unconventional take on the genre, taking inspiration and influence from a wide range of styles. His follow up of last year’s Blonde saw the artist win Attitude Magazine’s Artist of the Year. A long time collaborator with a huge list of iconic names - with Kanye, Jay-Z, Tyler, The Creator and Calvin Harris being only a select few, Ocean is truly one of the most respected and celebrated artists of the scene.

Narrowing it down to five tracks might be up there with one of the most difficult decisions to make; it’s obviously recommended that you listen to everything Frank Ocean has ever offered his vocal chords or lyric writing skills to, because there’s no doubt that you wouldn’t be disappointed. For now, here’s a good introduction and some sort of attempt at picking just a few of his most notable works.

Biking
Of course, the collaboration with Jay-Z and Frank’s good friend Tyler, The Creator was the surprise track that everyone was looking for this year to soundtrack their summer, but with the sheer amount of projects that have been stand out due solely to his vocals, including collaborations in this list would make it even more difficult to narrow down. This list is all about Frank, and his solo version of 'Biking' shows that he doesn’t need help from his friends to create a truly wonderful track. Switching between long, drawn out and, let’s face it, flawless vocals and the contrasting fast paced rap style shows the versatility of this man’s flair.

American Wedding
Here we have one of the clean cut examples of Frank’s true artistry and genius. Most musicians won’t mess with such a classic track, but most musicians aren’t Frank, who took The Eagles ‘Hotel California’ and paid homage by taking their message of the false American dream one step further with his own analogy. Ocean tells a story of the all too real idealistic view of love and marriage ending in heartbreak and divorce. With his highly intelligent lyricism, his reference to ‘M-R-S dot Kennedy’ highlights the original message of the track’s metaphor, that the utopian view of ‘the home of the brave, land of the free’ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Pink + White
A distinctive and memorable melody on piano accompanies the equally distinctive voice of Ocean, with a contagious rhythmic beat that echoes the nostalgic vibes of those classic R&B songs that soundtracked the early noughties. Complete with the sound of birds twittering away to close the number, this is the ultimate dreamy track from the latest full release of 2016’s Blonde.

Pyramids
A standard three minute track isn’t enough of Frank as anyone would like, and that’s one of the reasons why the near ten minutes of 'Pyramids' made this list. This track is nothing short of a journey, containing everything the artist possibly can to make it a spectacular affair. From a slow burning start, the story of Cleopatra develops into a funky groove-soaked track, complete with synths, saxophone and a guitar solo from John Mayer (sounds odd, but it honestly works). Touching about every style possible and plausible, with dance elements being sewn together with old fashioned slow jam R&B and of course, Ocean’s luscious voice, this single is an iconic experiment of genre merging that truly paid off.

Thinkin Bout You
If you ever needed confirmation that Ocean’s voice is enough to make the hairs on your skin stand on end, a listen to his most popular track ‘Thinkin Bout You’ will give you just that. Taken from the debut solo project that shot him into the spotlight, Channel Orange, his rich tone gliding effortlessly into an impressive falsetto is enough to make Mariah Carey blush. It’s worth listening to the live version of this wonderful track to truly appreciate the talent of Mr Ocean.

An elusive individual, Ocean took a hiatus from performing live and after three years made his return in spectacular fashion with a string of festival appearances including Manchester’s prized festival Parklife. He’ll also be performing at this year’s Lovebox Festival, taking place between June 14th and 15th in London’s Victoria Park.

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