Culture Crash 20-36: The Soothing Sounds of Frank Ocean


Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

Since entering COVID-19 lockdown, I have felt myself constantly searching for more and more music to play in the background. Usually, I’d fill my commute with podcasts and audiobooks, but staying at home all day every day has meant I’ve relied more and more on music to work to, music to cook to and music to fall asleep to. While I have satiated this need with a lot of new releases and old favorites, I’ve also truly discovered the music of Frank Ocean.

I remember listening to Frank Ocean in the past, here and there when certain songs caught my ears, but for the past few months, I have been really listening to his music, intently. Like a lot of current artists, Frank Ocean blends genres from all over the map, with elements of R&B and hip hop merging with jazzy or funky interludes. Sometimes his music is pop, and sometimes it almost sounds like a slam poem. At other times, he allows a funky bass line to dominate long stretches at a time.

What unites all of his music is his incredibly rich voice, offering dulcet tones, even when his lyrics are challenging or distressing. “Pyramids,” off of “Channel Orange,” is my perfect 10 minute escape from the world. I can put on a nice pair of headphones, crank the volume and allow my mind to wander. Meanwhile “Solo” off of “Blonde” is a contemplative song that ponders the excesses of life, but it’s also incredibly comforting, with its church organ backing and its intimate lyrics.

It’s a time of a lot of anxiety for all of us, and everyone I’ve talked to lately has discussed what media they’ve been jumping into to anchor themselves. I’m no different: I’ve watched a lot of movies, I’ve read some books and I’ve torn through seasons of TV, but Frank Ocean has been something of a soothing soundtrack to all of it, and at a time as fraught as this year has been, that is no small feat.

Frank Ocean’s albums “Channel Orange” and “Blonde” are available whenever you get your music.

I’m Evan Rook.

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