Frank Ocean is an enigmatic superstar. His most recent full-length album, Blonde, came out back in 2016 and his most recent musical release of any kind, a double-single came back in 2020, just a few weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic. He made a rare appearance at the Met Gala in 2021, and he launched a high-end jewelry brand that same year.
Despite his knack for staying out of the public eye and commenting very little in general, or perhaps because of it, Ocean has a fervent fanbase. So when Coachella announced back in 2021 that Frank Ocean would headline their 2023 festival, it sent fans into a tizzy. Some flew in from around the country and the world to see the musician’s epic return to the live performance scene at his first set in the better part of a decade on April 16. To say things went awry would be an understatement.
At the last minute, Frank pulled the official Coachella livestream of his performance and removed an ice rink and intricate set design from the show. After frantically scrambling for unofficial livestreams on Instagram and TikTok, fans around the world and those in person witnessed an underwhelming set that started 45 minutes late, only saw Frank perform a handful of songs, and was abruptly ended due to curfew. The criticism of the superstar came fast and hard in the ensuing days. Midway through the week, Frank pulled out of performing during the festival’s second weekend and he was replaced by Blink 182.
While the exact timeline and events remain somewhat of a mystery to his fans, their disappointment online has been palpable and it has sparked some debate about what, exactly, performers owe to their fans. While being mysterious will always come across a little cool, Frank Ocean’s disastrous return to the stage shows that sometimes less isn’t more, and it can actually just be less. At this point, Ocean’s reputation is pretty battered and his future is as unclear as his past, but the whole saga does make you appreciate just how difficult and demanding being in the public eye really is. Here’s to hoping for brighter and better days for Frank Ocean and his performances in the future.
I’m Evan Rook.