Frank Ocean – Pyramids
Even if you’ve never heard a note of Frank Ocean’s music, you’ve almost certainly heard his name. The Odd Future-affiliated singer caused internet uproar recently when, on the verge of releasing his hotly anticipated debut album ‘Channel Orange’, he went public that his first true love had been a man. While such a revelation might not be all that shocking in many sections of the pop firmament (remember the collective shrug that met Ricky Martin’s coming out?), for an artist in the sometimes less than enlightened world of hip hop, it was a pretty ballsy move.
“I won’t touch on risky, because that’s subjective,” he told The Guardian. “People are just afraid of things too much. Afraid of things that don’t necessarily merit fear. Me putting ‘Nostalgia’ out … what’s physically going to happen? Me saying what I said on my Tumblr last week? Sure, evil exists, extremism exists. Somebody could commit a hate crime and hurt me. But they could do the same just because I’m black. They could do the same just because I’m American. Do you just not go outside your house? Do you not drive your car because of the statistics? How else are you limiting your life for fear?”
All this makes Ocean potentially one of the most important R&B acts in recent memory, even before you press play on your stereo. Thankfully, he seems to have the talent to justify his already iconic status. ‘Pyramids’ is an audacious nine-minute R&B epic that flits restlessly through the stylistic playbook, shifting seamlessly from smoky slow jam to synth fuelled club bounce and back again.
It’s fair to say that there aren’t many other names in the game even trying to reach the heights Ocean seems to hit so effortlessly. The closest comparisons you could make are Prince and Stevie Wonder in their collective heydays, not because ‘Pyramids’ really sounds like either of them, but because it is so clearly trying to do something big, ambitious and truly different. Gay, straight, bi, whatever; the music is what truly matters and ‘Pyramids’ delivers in spades.