Is Frank Ocean Overrated?

39 comments
February 12, 2013 ‐ By Charing Ball
Source: WENN

Source: WENN

Out of all the songs Frank Ocean could have performed on the Grammys, he choose “Forrest Gump.”

I’m not a huge fan of Ocean but I do like him. However, it is becoming increasingly harder and harder to defend him from the growing and legitimate chorus of folks, who wonder what the big deal is about him? I mean damn Ocean, you have tracks like “Pyramids” – okay, maybe that song might have been too long for a performance. However there is also “Sweet Life,” “Pilot Jones” and even “Super Rich Kids,” which to me has super crossover appeal. But Forrest Gump? Sorry, that was just a poor song choice – for the Grammys as well as the Channel Orange album.

And unfortunately for Ocean bad song choices like “Forrest Gump” is yielding himself to some very stiff criticism about if he is deserving of all the praises he has received in the industry. In the article, Is the Frank Ocean coronation premature?” Noel Murray writes:

“Full disclosure: I think Channel Orange is a good album, but I don’t think it’s a great one. It didn’t make my Top 15 albums list of 2012, nor did any song from it make my “Top 40 songs from albums not on my Top 15” list. I spent much of last year trying to love Channel Orange, but the record never took hold. I’m a fan of vintage pop and R&B, and generally like hearing people work within the traditions of the old while courting the cutting-edge, as Frank Ocean does. But while several songs from Channel Orange hit that sweet spot for me—in particular “Sweet Life,” which best exemplifies Ocean’s gift for wistful scene-setting—too much of the album sounds sketchy to me. I don’t think Ocean is a strong vocalist, and I think many of his observations about wealth, sex, and drugs are thuddingly obvious, however well-written.”

This is not the first article as of late, which has asked the same question. In the article, Frank Ocean is Boring: The Year Lifeless Music Found Critical Praise, Chris Chafin says that Ocean has “drained the sexiness and excitement out of R&B.” He writes,

“Channel Orange is listless in the extreme. On several tracks, Ocean seems barely to be keeping himself awake behind the microphone. That’s when you can actually hear his voice, which is often buried under layers of production. It’s hard to tell if this is intentional, or if Ocean is just unable to muster the strength to sing louder than his beats, no matter how much his producers turn them down.”

Unfortunately I have to agree. But for every underdeveloped (or in some cases overproduced) songs like “Lost,” “Pink Matters” or “Sierra Leone,” there are some really sophisticated gems like “Monk” and “Thinking About You,” which is why I can’t totally write him off. Overall, it is a not a classic album but pretty damn solid. However, I do believe that there was a lot of undo expectations put onto Ocean, which might not have been warranted. And this might have more to do with his reception within the industry than the music itself. Originally, there was this spirit among some critics and music writers of wanting to see this kid win. He was black, male, alternative and of has a questionable sexuality. This, according to most critics and music writers, made him an enigma in a musical (i.e. black) culture, which is largely regarded as being homophobic. The Washington Post determined that he was a game changer and music veterans like Jermaine Dupri christened him the savior of R&B. Not to mention that his six Grammy nominations pretty much solidified him among the top-tier of today’s musical artists. In essence, Ocean has become the musical version of Barack Obama, sent here to challenge and progress black music forward. And he has enough fans among critics eager to sell that including Pitchfork Magazine, which gave Channel Orange a very controversial 9.5 rating.

The thing is, though, if critics and music writers really wanted to endear themselves to a more eclectic and sexually diverse version of black music, there was really no need to create a savior in Ocean as there were already black LGBTQ artists already blazing trials on the black music scene. A few weeks ago, I was chatting with this really nice woman at a sewing party I went to. While we cut the patterns for the tights we were making, she asked me if I was going to go see Big Freedia, who had a upcoming show in city. I said no because I had no idea who a Big Freedia was. She paused, perhaps trying to find a way to explain Freedia (while also gauging my level of comfort with the LGBTQ community), and then told me that Big Freedia was a transgender artist, who is very popular within the bounce hip-hop music scene. She put on some of her music for me to get just a taste. I’ve been listening rather frequently ever since.

I won’t even insult your intelligence with a poor retelling of bounce music history because as I said, I just began familiarizing myself with the genre fairly recently. However, here is a New York Times article from a few years ago and a clip from a film, which documents the rise of the genre of music that was born out of the gay slums of New Orleans and features an appearance by Mannie Fresh from the group The Hot Boyz. What’s interesting to note is that while hip-hop as a culture has been infamously perceived as unwelcoming to homosexuality, a charge that I won’t necessarily dispute, this however doesn’t mean that there has not always been artists, who have been able to maneuver through those terrains and to create a receptive space for themselves within the genre. Folks like Sylvester, Meshell Ndegeocello and Rahsaan Patterson have all been able to find audiences within the black community. Is that kind of reception the norm? No, but a large part of the major reason why is that many of the same music critics and fans, much of whom act as the gatekeepers to what ultimately becomes the next best thing in music, don’t afford the same pedestals and opportunities to be change-agents in music to these artists, which has been given to the likes of Ocean.

What makes Ocean different is that he is pretty safe and comfortable for the masses. His sexuality, while alternative to the hyper-heterosexual landscape of Hip-Hop and R&B is not as flamboyant, brash and loud as say a Big Freedia or any of her bounce music counterparts. There is no threat of black booties, whether they be from the bodies of gay, straight or otherwise, twerking it out to a Frank Ocean song. As Chafin of the Village Voice noted, he is R&B without the actual sexiness.

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  • samo

    second rzakia, also, I don’t know about anyone else but I heard his album when it was on the indie waves online and he was just starting- not even on the radio- after hearing it and seeing his covershots, I thought he was gay, but didn’t want to “judge a book by it’s cover”

    after he broke radio and ended up coming out i LOLed cause it’s funny how some sayings, even when people tell you aren’t true, really are foolproof at times.

  • Aaliyah Noelle

    Waaaayyy overrated… He can write well but his live preformances?! Boring as hell

  • Ifuaskme2

    who cares. If Beyonce and Rhianna are superstars more power to him.

  • ibdw2

    I’m wondering why he had to “come out of the closet” at all.. what does his sexuality or sexual preference have to do with his musical talents or abilities? Its interesting to me how so many people get hung up on that. If you are talented you don’t need gimmicks or hype to sell you. I do feel that b/c the entertainment industry is run by homosexuals and bisexuals that it has played a part in his fame. I haven’t heard any of his music and, don’t really plan to however, his performance at the Grammy’s was awful and, he should be totally embarrassed.

  • Chassie

    huge fan and bad religion is my favorite song. He is extremely talented to me, perhaps its an acquired taste, sms. Doesn’t make much sense to me to take my musical cues from anyone else’s preferences. Just because the whole world doesn’t love him does not take away from his talent

  • ayy_gee_emm

    Frank Lotion was aiiiiight. when he first came out. but his performances are horrid.
    His performance at the VMAs with the bandana and the fire. -_________- he looked like he belonged on Survivor.
    His last performance at the grammys. my man WHISTLED through the song. *side eye, rolls eyes* c’mon.

  • OSHH

    Yes.

  • Katia Dominique

    Overrated? It depends…I always loved him before he got popular. I think this feeling comes from the d*ckriders that wants to stay relevant. The die hard fans never changed their views on him. He’s a great songwriter and I do love his singing…it’s different. He’s not a good performer….to have seen him live…I wished he would of interacted more with his audience. But he has his own vibe and he gets lost in his songs. That’s a great thing. I do agree that maybe he should of perform something like Pyramids or Sweet Life for the Grammys. I guess he wanted to promote his new vid at the same time. Channel Orange was awesome but not the greatest.I do believe there will more great gems in his future.

  • Honesty

    Why does he have to be compared to Barack Obama though?

  • I ain’t scared of YOU!

    I don’t understand his appeal either. I’ve listened to “Pink Matter”, it was ok. I think he’ll become a feature on MTV’s “I LOVE 2012″

  • Wow

    I don’t get his appeal. I initially thought he was Drake doing his that monotone singy rap thing he does until I looked at the radio and saw his name. He may be a good song writer but his singing is not good to me.

  • WhoMe

    I said it before he came out the closet…he CAN NOT SING! The music industry is run by gays thats why theres so much hype around him. And the whole chris brown parking lot thing…perfect timing. 1st he comes out the closet, releases an album then has a “fight” with an already hated celebrity (chris brown) right before the grammys. If thats not good PR or propaganda i dont know what is.

  • Fran

    He’s different and we all know how people feel about different. He deserved that Grammys in my opinion, Miguel’s album sounds great Frank engages with his words not the sound and other MUSICIANS and MUSIC CRITICS thought he deserved a standing ovation. He did something right. I swear he came out as bi-sexual as well…don’t know where the “he’s gay” is coming from.

    • ThaVoiceoftheVoiceless

      If a guy is bi-sexual then he might as well be considered gay because I highly doubt that many women would still want to deal with him no offense.

  • Kahekili

    He most certainly is!

  • divainplay

    that forrest gump son was horrible, he should have lip sync……made no sense just like him….

  • NikkitaMichelle

    I did hear the buzz about him long before you ever came out. So I seeked out his music to see if it was worth all the hype and I was not impressed. His voice is just okay. Some people write better music for other people than they do for themselves, like Kandi and Neyo. Maybe he’ll be blessed enough to fall in that group.

  • Sunshinegirl

    Frank is the man. I love just about everything he’s put out, but everyone has a bad day. It’s just unfortunate his bad day was at The Grammy’s. He was pretty bad. I wonder what happened? I think he was nervous. There were so many people in that place. He needs to stop being so closed in and get out and enjoy the Hollywood life a little. He’s going to be a big star!

    • Dalai Dee

      No he needs to practice more and get a voice coach. I don’t know him but something tells me he is not getting vocal training. I’m sure he is getting out and partying in Hollywood maybe thats what went wrong. That was unacceptable.

    • Kahekili

      “He needs to stop being so closed in and get out and enjoy the Hollywood life a little.”

      How did you form that opinion about him?

  • http://www.facebook.com/nikia.dshiznit Nikia D-Shiznit

    He’s.not any more overrated than all of these other rappers. Gtfoh

  • nana

    Ok went to youtube, watched what everybody is talking about. Man I felt embarrassed to like some of his music. I Cringed, the song was akward it made me feel weird the lyrics, the whistling and his voice was flat. My ears were molested by frank ocean.Why me?

    • Dalai Dee

      He gotta voice he just needs some training. As a singer, coaches helps you hear were u are flat. Frank got talent he just needs some refinement.

  • Sagittarius81

    I like his album, but he’s no Luther Vandross.

  • deeluvly33

    Frank Ocean is Absolutely overrated. His vocals are not great. People are just happy he came out the closet and opening door for the gay community. I think he is pretty wack.

  • nana

    Didn’t see the performance maybe I will go to youtube?

  • Ms_Sunshine9898

    I like him but he could have tore the house down with Super Rich Kids, Pink Matter, or Lost instead of Forrest Gump which is not one of my favorite songs on the album . .

    • Charing Ball

      I’m thinking that if he did Super Rich Kids and then had Mary J or even Elton John come out to perform/mix in Deep Inside or Bennie and the Jets, he would have set the entire show on fire!

      • Rayjulian85

        That’s a great idea! That would have been hot!

  • Trisha_B

    I like some of Franks music, but i feel he only won b/c he’s gay. If he didn’t win in the category against Chris Brown it would have been “Oh, he didn’t win b/c he’s gay” & blah blah blah. Frank timed his coming out the closet for this. He is a better songwriter than performer, so the hype of him being so deep & a great performer is blah to me. They should have gave his set to Miguel.

    • Lolita

      Miguel is the truth. Frank came out the closet for attention and to let it be known like a man sagging in prison (he is at that age were all men care about is sex gay bi or straight) and as we see the boyfriends just popped up.

      • Lolita

        The boyfriends are popping up…lol…

  • Lolita

    I don’t care for frank ocean, but if he dont release more music he is gonna fade away. He is an ok song writer so maybe he should stick to that. Over-rated yes. He sounded awful at the Grammy’s after all that frank ocean hype.

  • Nikki

    I don’t think he’s overrated, he’s very talented. I commend him for coming out of the closet.

    What I really want to see is an OPENLY gay rapper. I’m just imagining the people he would collaborate with.

  • rzakia

    I think people love Frank Ocean because he came out of the closet. Before that, were people checking for him the same way? Once he came out with that long rambling note, everyone is in love with him. I think he has some talent as a songwriter, and less talent as a singer, and even less as a live performer. I believe Frank Ocean is just a passing phase.

    • ieshapatterson

      lol but of course.the gays are his main crew,before he came out i BARELY heard anything about the man.he comes out and the world loves him.

    • Kenedy

      I’m actually a huge fan of his & think he’s super talented…but i HATE channel orange, every single song…if he had come out with an album like his mixtapes, then people wouldn’t question his talent…..something just went wrong in the making of channel orange

  • TRUTH IS

    I think he is but who isnt these days?!

  • Estylo702

    i dont think he’s overrated my opinion. Just basing it off of his music and nothing personal. His whole CD is fire! Some people judge without really listening to the artist.

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