I didn’t know who this guy Frank Ocean was either, in case you’re wondering, but he seems to be an up and coming R&B artist and songwriter on the brink of something. He’s just 24, and has already collaborated with Jay-Z and Kanye on Watch The Throne. He’s also opened for Coldplay and appeared at Coachella. GQ named him “Rookie of the Year” late last year in their “Men of The Year” issue, and he’s got his first solo album, “Channel Orange,” coming out July 17. (Videos for two of his songs are below, but they’re earlier singles and are not on this new album.) In the liner notes of his “Channel Orange,” Ocean comes out either as a gay or bisexual man, it’s hard to specify, by telling a moving story about falling in love with a male friend at the age of 19. He should be writing books. Normally we wouldn’t cover a story about someone coming out when they don’t have big name recognition, but this is just so well written that I couldn’t pass it up. Ocean posted this to his Tumblr in response to speculation over the lyrics to his music.
4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide. Most of the day I’d see him, and his smile. I’d hear his conversation and his silence … until it was time to sleep. Sleep I would often share with him. By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping, no negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love, it changed my life. Back then, my mind would wander to the women I had been with, the ones I cared for and thought I was in love with. I reminisced about the sentimental songs I enjoyed as a teenager.. The ones I played when I experienced a girlfriend for the first time. I realized they were written in a language I did not speak yet. I realized too much, too quickly. Imagine being thrown from a plane. I wasn’t in a plane though. I was in a Nissan Maxima, the same one I packed up with bags and drove to Los Angeles in.
I sat there and told my friend how I felt. I wept as the words left my mouth. I grieved for them, knowing I could never take them back for myself. He patted my back. He said kind things. He did his best, but he wouldn’t admit the same. He had to go back inside soon. It was late and his girlfriend was waiting for him upstairs. He wouldn’t tell me the truth about his feelings for me for another 3 years. I felt like I’d only imagined reciprocity for years. Now imagine being thrown from a cliff. No, I wasn’t on a cliff, I was still in my car telling myself it was gonna be fine and to take deep breaths. I took the breaths and carried on. I kept up a peculiar friendship with him because I couldn’t imagine keeping up my life without him. I struggled to master myself and my emotions. I wasn’t always successful.
That made me cry. It gets better, it’s so lovely and poetic and he thanks the people who have helped him. He seems to have come to an understanding about why his friend rejected him, and about who he is as a person. He has gratitude and a sense of knowing now. I can’t remember being as moved by something I read as I was by these passages. Here’s more:
The dance went on. I kept the rhythm for several summers after. It’s winter now. I’m typing this on a plane back to Los Angeles from New Orleans. I flew home for another marred Christmas. I have a windowseat.
It’s December 27, 2011. By now I’ve written two albums. This being the second. I wrote to keep myself busy and sane. I wanted to create worlds that were rosier than mine. I tried to channel overwhelming emotions. I’m surprise at how far all of it has taken me. Before writing this I’d told some people my story. I’m sure these people kept me alive, kept me safe. Sincerely, these are the folks I wanna thank from the floor of my heart. Everyone of you knows who you are.
Great humans, probably angels. I don’t know what happens now. And that’s alrite. I don’t have any secrets I need kept anymore. There’s probably some small shit still, but you know what I mean. I was never alone, as much as it felt like it. As much as I still do sometimes. I never was. I don’t think I ever could be. Thanks.
To my first love, I’m grateful for you. Grateful that even thought it wasn’t what I hoped for and even thought it was never enough, it was. Some things never are. And we were. I won’t forget you. I won’t forget the summer. I’ll remember who I was when I met you. I’ll remember who you were and how we’ve both changed and stayed the same. I’ve never had more respect for life and living than I have right now. Maybe it takes a near death experience to feel alive. Thanks.
To my mother. You raised me strong. I know I’m only brave because you were first. So thank you. All of you. For everything good. I feel like a free man. If I listen closely, I can hear the sky falling too.
That’s beautiful, right? I wish Ocean all the success in the world, and very little of the negativity. I get the impression that he’s above it all anyway. I’m going to pay a lot more attention to this guy from now on, and so is the rest of the world.
Update: After I wrote this story, I found this glowing profile of Ocean in the NY Times, published yesterday.
Here’s his song “Novacane.” It has F bombs and is NSFW. He basically says he’s screwing a lot of women and just can’t feel anything. Here’s a link to the lyrics.
And “Swim Good,” about heartbreak.