By Dan Guarino
Frank Ocean, winner of the Best New Artist award at the 2012 Grammys, hasn’t attended the award show since 2013. HHis second studio album, “Blonde,” was critically acclaimed. Yet, he chose not to submit the album for consideration in 2016 when it was released.
“Winning a TV award doesn’t christen me successful. It took me some time to learn that. I bought all my masters back last year in the prime of my career, that’s successful. Blonde sold a million plus without a label, that’s successful. I am youg, black, gifted, and independent,” Frank Ocean posted on social media.
His rebellious streak continued well into 2017 and 2018, as he makes moves that would drive the marketing department of a music agency insane. Throughout last year, he dropped single songs on Apple through a digital radio station called Blonded Radio.
Some of these tracks made it to streaming services, but others, such as “Lens V2” and “Chanel ft. A$AP Rocky” still can only be listened to by trudging into the depths of the internet, or buying temporarily available merchandise.
This came to a head this Valentine’s Day when Ocean dropped his first single of the year, a cover of “Moon River,” onto a small YouTube channel. Where most artists would milk the release of new music for all it’s worth, Ocean made the decision to upload it discreetly, in the middle of the night on Valentine’s day, where it will undoubtedly make less money than it would if it were put on Apple Music at noon.
“There’s just some magic in truth and honesty and openness,” Ocean said in an interview with Hypebeast. Ocean makes it known that he is an artist first, and a money maker second.
“Well I made the album before 30. I just ain’t put that out. Quotes from an interview I haven’t given.” He posted on his Tumblr.
This refers to a tweet he made early in his career, stating that he wanted to make five full length albums before he turned 30. There’s “Nostalgia Ultra,” “Channel Orange,” “Endless,” “Blonde,” and this new, untitled and unreleased record. The thing is, though, that of those five projects, only two of them received a traditional release.
Ocean’s first project, “Nostalgia Ultra,” was uploaded as a ZIP file to his Tumblr account, meaning he made no money off the sales from this album, because it quite plainly wasn’t sold as an album. It still isn’t on streaming services.
Similarly, “Endless”, was released as an hour long music video on Apple Music’s website and was kept of primary money makers such as Spotify.
This is in contrast to many of his contemporaries. Migos, his frequent collaborators, make a point of putting out all the music they can as frequently as they can.
Between 2016 and 2018 they released two group albums, “Culture” and “Culture II,” a full length mixtape, which were featured on more than 20 other songs, and released other collaborative projects, such as “Huncho Jack”, and “Without Warning”. In two years, they had officially released more music then Ocean had in his entire career.
Authenticity is dying. Money rules everything, and more and more top level musicians are caving to labels to appease fans with whatever is hottest at the moment.
Ocean stands as a beacon of hope, as he continues to receive a massive cult following along with commercial success despite his complete commitment to craft.