Where Art Thou, Frank?

Photo: http://www.mtv.com/news/1978395/happy-birthday-frank-ocean/

The search continues as Frank Ocean fans desperately demand a mere sound byte of his musical genius. Almost any conversation I have with close friends and fellow music enthusiasts comes to the scandal of Frank’s disappearance from the music scene. Yet, I began to think differently (to the point that I actually might appreciate it) about Frank’s absence from the music scene.

Brief Background:

Initially appearing with OFWGKTA, Ocean established himself in the R&B solo scene after the 2011 release of his mixtape nostalgia, ULTRA.

[Insert Obligatory Fan Rant]

TL;DR  This mixtape defined the transformative 2011-2012 school year for me and countless others.


Fast forward to today and Frank has not released anything in FOUR grueling years. Frank effectively hooked all us fans on his musical crack and then “POOF”! Disappeared. The void Frank left on the music scene was cataclysmic. Every now and again I’ll scroll past an article on Facebook or Twitter falsely hinting at a new Frank Ocean release. After four years of pondering and appreciating Frank Ocean’s few pieces, I have come to increasingly appreciate his art.

I have begun to consider Frank’s hiatus from music as a sort of trend in artistic expression. Many artists, such as Jean- Michel Basquiat, Kurt Cobain, and Mark Rothko, removed themselves from the art scene and the process of expression itself, life. Frank’s similar removal has not been fatal (Thank God), but I believe there is a common link between his and other artists’ decision to dismount the “mainstream pedestal”.

And sadly, it makes sense to me. As Roland Barthes posits in his 1967 essay The Death of  the Author, the creative form and the artist are unrelated. According to Barthes, to assign a text (but I’m expanding this to all forms of expression) an author limits its ability to be subjected to other forms of interpretation. Perhaps, Cobain, Rothko, Basquiat, and even Frank realized that to be on the “mainstream pedestal” is to cement a co-dependent relationship between author and art, ultimately limiting how one’s audience perceives it. Perhaps, these artists’ dismounting the “mainstream pedestal” serves as a form of altruistic martyrdom wherein their art is ultimately liberated by their actual or symbolic deaths.

This just got real deep, but I have come to appreciate Frank for his art and do not wish to limit him or his expressions. My prescription to all us die-hard Frank Ocean fans: Stop demanding for him to release new music and enjoy what he has already gifted us.

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