Frank Ocean: Major Influence in Today’s Music World

Mattea Vecera, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

Frank Ocean’s hiatus seems to have come to a close this past month, just in time for the new decade. 

For those that don’t know, Christopher Edwin Cooksey (Frank Ocean) is a singer, songwriter, rapper, photographer, and one of the most acclaimed artists of his time.

Ocean began his career as a ghostwriter before becoming a member of the Odd Future hip hop collective in 2010, working alongside artists Tyler, the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Mike G, Left Brain, and Hodgy Beats, to name a few. He then released his debut mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra, before signing to Def Jam Records in 2012.

Shortly after, in 2012, Ocean released his debut studio album Channel Orange, which received universal acclaim and won countless awards. In August of 2016, he released a visual album, Endless, which is available exclusively on Apple Music and was the final project needed to fulfill his contract with Def Jam. 

The day after the release of Endless, Ocean independently released Blonde, his most acclaimed album to date. 

His music weaves from genre to genre, from R&B, soul, jazz, pop, and rap to avant-garde, electronic, and rock, with poetic lyrics that show emotional relatability to this generation. They show inner philosophical battles relating to love, isolation, purpose, depression, nostalgia and existential crisis. 

Ocean also was one of the first men in R&B and rap to come out, leading the way for other artists (and fans alike) to be free to express their sexuality.

Nothing about him is traditional to the current music industry. He refuses to be defined. He rarely does interviews, his social-media presence is sporadic, he doesn’t make “pop, radio-friendly” music and he hasn’t released an album since Blonde. Despite debuting at No. 1 and currently having over 1.38 billion streams on Spotify alone, he chose not to submit it for Grammy consideration. 

Listing his nominations and awards would be another full article in itself, but some of them include two Grammy Awards (for his album Channel Orange and collaboration on the song “No Church in the Wild”), two platinum-certified albums, Time’s best album of 2016 (Blonde), and recently had two albums on Pitchfork’s Top 200 Albums of the Decade, with Channel Orange at No. 10 and Blonde taking the No. 1 spot. 

The article states that Blonde is “a synonym for American” with tracks that “captured the whiplash of being young in this country.” It is a classic and a generational masterpiece.

Blonde’s aesthetic and feeling it gives off has yet to be replicated by any other artist. However, many have been heavily influenced by Ocean (Kevin Abstract/BROCKHAMPTON, Daniel Caesar, Khalid, Joji, Lorde, Dijon). 

It is clear that Ocean has heavily influenced this generation through his unique musical style and hold on the music industry. Chances are, everyone reading this article has listened to a song written by, influenced by, or sung by Frank Ocean.

Long awaited by Ocean’s fans, it seems as if a new album is just around the corner. Over the last few weeks, Ocean has released four new songs, with DHL and In My Room available on streaming services. New merchandise has also been released on his website, 

Until then, we can only listen to his current discography and hope new music will be released soon. For anyone reading this who hasn’t listened to Frank Ocean (or, rather, thinks they haven’t), here are a few essential songs to start with (although I recommend just listening to all of the albums from the beginning):

  • Super Rich Kids (from Channel Orange, a classic car jam, being rich doesn’t mean being happy)
  • Nights (from Blonde, possibly the best musical change/beat change in all of music history, the highs and lows of a relationship)
  • Thinkin’ Bout You (from Channel Orange, bedroom song, a reflection on a past relationship and the feelings still involved)
  • Pink + White (from Blonde, perfect song for sunsets, mortality and nostalgia)
  • Sweet Life (from Channel Orange, another song to jam to, money is empowering and illusional) 
  • Ivy (from Blonde, heartbroken?- this song is for you!, mistakes and a failed relationship)