Adrift on an Ocean of inspiration.

January 24, 2013 6:00 pm

This week’s announcement of Frank Ocean’s nomination for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation media awards in the outstanding music artist category, may come as no surprise for avid fans of the smooth, spontaneous, and melodic mastermind, whose open attitude towards his sexuality within a decisively homophobic musical sphere has been both refreshing, and inspiring for many.Frank Ocean

Ocean, through the medium of his Tumblr account on the 4th July, openly referred to a relationship he had four years previously with another man, speaking of the memory fondly, somewhat nostalgic and wistful:

“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 seems as if those spontaneous, glowing and upbeat elements of Channel Orange – his debut studio album- have been derived from this relationship, and to an extent it has reinforced both his own character and that of his work: blissful, sunny, bouncy, yet clashing and confused. His is a sound with multiple emotive layers of considerable complexity: The theme of unrequited love, the idea that you might not realise what the good times were ‘til they’re gone, and a concern that you might blink and miss something; these are all the concerns of a young adult trying forge their own path.

Ocean’s story has been one of trials and tribulations. Following hurricane Katrina, the studio which he had spent years saving for through working multiple odd jobs, was flooded and looted. A significant obstacle, and for those of weaker character or less ambition, a strong deterrent. Ocean took this in his stride, however, moving to Los Angeles to follow his dream where he began to write songs for established artists such as Brandy, Justin Bieber and John Legend. Good things come to those who wait, and for his patience and perseverance he was rewarded with the release of his EP Nostalgia, Ultra, and his collaboration with the Los Angeles-based hip hop collective OFWGKTA, which meant he was soon working with industry giants Kanye West and Jay-Z on Watch the Throne. Commercial success came with the release of Channel Orange, and his appearance on the US chatshow Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

A testament to his hard work and his dogmatic drive, Chanel Orange made the number one slot in a multitude of “best album of 2012” lists. To name but a few: Billboard, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Entertainment Weekly, The Guardian, Los Angeles Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, Slant Magazine, Spin, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

frank ocean jay z pharrell

Ocean’s GLAAD nomination serves to reward his diligence, his courage, and his talent. Ocean has come out as bisexual in an environment where to be anything but heterosexual is hardly discussed, often concealed, and rarely tolerated. Through exposing his sexuality via such a public forum he has gained many supporters, not least of all Jay-Z and President Obama. Has the support that Ocean has achieved come from a more accepting and open-minded America? Is this indicative of changing attitudes towards the LGBT community, and an appreciation of difference? Right now, that’s difficult to gauge, but what we must take from Ocean’s story is a belief in self-determination: evidence that being your own person and staying true to yourself is something that others will admire in you and will revere you for. Actions speak louder than words, and more public gestures like Ocean’s will go a long way towards changing attitudes and public perceptions of sexuality. Times are changing, and those who refused to accept it will be left high and dry, as the tide of public opinion, supports the Oceans of this era.

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