My opinion on music is based on one simple question; is the music good. I don’t care about genre, sub-genre, race, sex or sexuality. That last part, sexuality, brings to mind the recent revelation made by Frank Ocean, that his first experience with love was in fact with a man.
While a lot of people supported Ocean’s open letter to the public, thousands read it and immediately took to message boards claiming outrage. I read posts about Ocean being another one biting the dust; referencing the “gay epidemic” that is allegedly infecting all black men. Other posts talked about how it would be difficult to listen to his music, past and future, not knowing whether he’s referring to a man or woman on any given track. There were those people even claiming to have once been avid supporters, now vowing to never purchase or listen to another Frank Ocean project.
All of this protest over one man’s need to liberate himself from a secret that has tugged at him since he was 19. All of the torment that comes with wanting peace of mind, now being overshadowed by the harsh realism that hardly anyone, not even supposed fans, want you to have it.
With potential to be a once in a generation type of talent, and musical prowess that expands several genre’s, I find myself asking, what does Frank Ocean’s liberation have to do with the quality of his music? If a classic album is inspired by an artists abusive childhood, his drug dealing past, or his radical political views, no one bats an eyelid. But when an artist, specifically a black artist, even subtly mentions homosexuality, his past is suddenly too taboo to continue support.
I’ve read several articles over the last few days mentioning Frank Ocean alongside some combination of the words “homosexual” and “hip-hop”, and all I’ve thought to myself is, wtf??? Frank Ocean isn’t hip-hop. He can barely be considered R&B. Lumping his music in with hip-hop as so many have done, increases shock value, but it misses the mark. He’s an all-encompassing singer who channels artists such as D’angelo and Prince in his ability to capture audiences with an inexplicable sound and style that defies everything else artists who look like him are currently doing. I’m not saying he’s as brilliant as either of them, or that his career will produce that same sort of cross-generational euphoria, but I am saying the content of his music to this point, has been similarly diverse and refreshing. That alone should be enough for people to take his admission as nothing more than a brave character defining moment in a very young musical career.
Frank Ocean, gay or straight, R&B or indie-rock, is merely a great writer, and potentially great artist, no more no less. His sexuality hasn’t drawn any concern before now because all people heard was his work, which for the most part has been pretty damned good. His letter wasn’t a note to fans that the content in his music would change, it was simply a gateway into one part of the life of a still little-known artist. When I put my headphones on to listen to Channel Orange, I’m not going to hear an audio-version of Frank Ocean’s sexual past or his tumblr page. All I’m going to hear is the music. And if the music is good, nothing else matters.