Frank Ocean Needs to Quit Playing Games With My Heart

Frank missing his FYF set is a missed oppurunity.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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Frank Ocean was supposed to headline day one of the FYF Fest in Los Angeles this weekend. But on his own accord, he canceled his performance and now Kanye West will headline instead. There’ll be lots of other great acts at FYF including recent Complex covergirl FKA twigs and D'Angelo, but Ocean’s performance would have been his first high-profile public set in quite some time—the perfect opportunity to set the record straight about the hell is going on with his next album.

In an era where it’s easier to communicate directly with fans than it’s ever been—something Ocean is keenly aware of thanks to his famous open letter—Ocean has allowed the hoopla around his sophomore album to become as irritating as the album is anticipated by being MIA. Rather than actual music, the buildup to his album has so far been marked by trolling, confusion, and someone editing Ocean’s Wikipedia entry to “Frank you lied to us all Ocean” making all this a referendum on what fans owe artists and what artists owe their fans in 2015. Ocean owes us answers, but we also owe him patience.

Ocean owes us answers, but we also owe him patience. 

Ocean emerged in early 2011 by unceremoniously releasing nostalgia,ULTRA. The mixtape won high praise for its clever songwriting and emotional depth, and Complex even named it fourth Best Album of 2011. His debut album, channel ORANGE, appeared the following year. Frank has generally been press adverse, doing only a handful of interviews, but the music spoke for itself. The album was a huge success, going gold and earning Ocean six Grammy nominations. But Ocean’s public persona is more defined by the open letter where he talked about falling in love with a man. It took courage to press publish on that post, but it’s important to note that communicating directly with fans and forcing them to come to terms with his sexuality did more for Ocean than any of his initial singles. Songs like “Bad Religion” took on a whole new meaning, and his public revelation was a liberating moment for anyone who has struggled with sexual identity. That's not to suggest that Ocean's letter wasn't a genuine moment, but it ended up being promotion in the form of a confession. 

Since that letter, the real struggle for Ocean has been the lead-up to his next album. In February 2013, he claimed he had started working on it, but we didn’t hear much music. By April 2014, he claimed he was close to finished recording. That’s when things get hazy. In November 2014, he released a snippet of a song, “Mesmerize,” that’s yet to be fully released. This April—a year after he initially claimed he was done—he said the album would be out by July. When July came and went, that’s when things started getting annoying.

This summer a fake album cover began floating around, Frank Ocean’s brother trolled fans into clicking a link that led to the last song you want to hear again, and Ocean’s website got an update that revealed nothing other than that the website was updated, which may or may not mean something. Just last week, Spotify seemingly trolled everyone into thinking the album was out but it was a rehash of old material. You know things are bad when the last four news items about your album can be summarized as “we were trolled.” It’s unacceptable for Ocean to let these rumors to fester when he can easily debunk them with a simple tweet or post on various social media sites. Maybe he enjoys the chaos; conflicting reports lead to online chatter and can serve as a reminder of just how badly people want to hear the music.

You know things are bad when the last four news items about your album can be summarized as ‘we were trolled.’

We can’t explain why random fans want to make fake covers and spread misinformation, but trolling is simply a part of the Internet. However, that doesn’t mean trolling should be a part of your marketing plan. Earlier this week, Jay Electronica went on stage and made the dubious claim that he was better than Drake and J. Cole—two artists who actually release music. Jay Elec is (was?) an incredible rapper with a legion of diehard fans (myself included), but he’s trolled us so many times with his oft-delayed album, Act II: Patents of Nobility (The Turn), that his once viable claim now gets him clowned on Twitter by fans who dub Act II the new Detox. This is a far cry from just a few years ago when Electronica captivated hip-hop with his brilliant song “Exhibit C,” but hype only lasts so long.

Detox is a master class in testing patience—albeit Dr. Dre had the luxury of being one of his genre’s greatest artists ever and kept busy by making hundreds of millions of dollars with headphones. After over a decade of claiming Detox would come out, a few weeks back Dr. Dre revealed he scrapped the album entirely after realizing it just wasn’t very good. Instead, he released an entirely different album, Compton, which has been well received critically and commercially. That’s a testament to Dre’s immense talent, but either way, Dr. Dre didn’t owe anyone anything. Especially not a subpar album to stain his legacy because the same fans who demanded a project will decry it.

Like Ocean, Rihanna and Kanye West were both supposed to drop albums this year as well, but instead they both released a number of mediocre singles that failed to become the mega-hits we expect from megastars. Although it’s not confirmed, it’s safe to assume that when Kanye switched album titles he went back to the drawing board with the album. No one seems to know for sure what's up with Rihanna's album, but the Internet seems content to continue ogling her bikini photos. It’s natural for us to get angsty, but that doesn’t mean Kanye, Rihanna, or Frank Ocean should feel obliged to rush something that isn’t ready. An artist should never force material out—everyone loses in that situation.

Still, it’s too bad Ocean bowed out of this weekend. With the spotlight on him he could have given a proper update on his album. Is it done? Is he still working on it? Was he unsatisfied​ with what he initially made and started all over again? Whatever it is, it’ll be fine. But please, Frank, just tell us what’s going on. Because you know Kanye will.

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