Frank Ocean Is Finally Throwing His Hat Into the Ring
Seven years ago, a line of rain-soaked fans clogged the blocks surrounding, arguably, New York’s worst music venue. Frank Ocean was playing his first show in support of the just-released Channel Orange at Terminal 5 that night, and the five boroughs were caught in a torrential, wind-whipping derecho. It deterred no one; not a single person abandoned the line, in hopes of getting through the doors to hear the Gospel of Frank. This fall, we find ourselves in the midst of another deluge. In recent weeks, Ocean—the man whose only means of contact with his fans for years was a Tumblr page that you’d periodically refresh in the hopes (almost always in vain) of finding a new stray thought or link to some old car commercial—has transformed into a full-fledged content machine. After years of near starvation, fans of the singer suddenly find themselves flush with radio shows to listen to, (controversial) club nights to attend, new singles to stream, exclusive 7” vinyls to order, expensive t-shirts to wear, posters to hang, and printed square silk scarves to drape over their faces. The tide, it appears, has finally come crashing in.
It started last fall. In November 2018, Ocean unlocked his previously private Instagram account. “Finsta no more!” he seemed to proclaim, greeting the world shirtless in his inaugural public post and sending a fervent pocket of the Internet into a frenzy. Just a few months later, he appeared on the cover of this very magazine, participating in a rare (at the time, at least) on the record interview. The spring brought another interview, the summer yet another, and the late summer, for good measure, one more. What could have stirred the recluse from his somnalescence. Did something bigger loom on the horizon?
In October: invitations to the aforementioned recurring after-hours club night, PrEP+ arrived (or not, if you’re most people). On the first night, at Knockdown Center in Queens, Ocean brought out special guest DJs Justice and Sango to tease two, still-unreleased songs. Then came two surprise episodes of his Beats 1 radio show, Blonded, on which he premiered “DHL” and “In My Room,” his first original releases in over two years. At another party, he teased yet another new song with British rapper Skepta. And there was also, of course, so much merch.
Considered en masse, these recent goings-on do have the trappings of an album rollout. And while this eventually might prove true, there is something else at work here. Something more tacit. Something a little more programmatic. Ocean is beginning to engage in a practice that many of us who work in arts and media are all too familiar with and one that he, for many years, seemed to refuse to actively participate in: He’s brand building.
More specifically, Ocean is transforming Blonded—his Instagram handle and the independent imprint under which he releases his music—into a multi-platform brand experience that you can engage with in different ways and at various price points. That $80 scarf too expensive? What about the $60 t-shirt? Can’t make it to PrEP+ on a school night? Have you considered ordering the $15 “Cayendo” 7”? Wanna hear the radio show? That’s free with your Apple Music subscription, pal!
Source : Jordan Coley Link