Single Reviews: Frank Ocean – Chanel / Biking / Lens

Frank Ocean released 3 surprise singles on his Apple Music ‘blonded RADIO’ show. He will return to the stage this Summer, appearing at festivals across North America and Europe, including Parklife, Manchester and Lovebox Festival, London.

It’s a pleasure to listen to these songs as a trio. Chanel paints an intense love story of a boyfriend with two contrasting personalities, Biking is a nostalgic nod to his origins featuring Tyler the Creator, and his most recent release Lens speaks of his difficulty reconciling fame and family. Despite their wildly differing subjects, Ocean’s effortless cool and sincerity oozes from each single.

The tapping of a military snare keeps rhythm for typically emotional, raw lyrics. The ever astounding juxtaposition of his own vulnerable romances and the ghost of Odd Future’s vulgarity is exemplified by “It’s really you on my mind” followed a mere 20 seconds later by “I need that b*tch to grind on my belt”.

Lyric you’ll think about most after one listen: “My guy pretty like a girl, and he got fight stories to tell”

Jay Z opens with nonsensical lines “life goes a cycle, what goes around, comes around” which seem somewhat out of place preceding Ocean’s melodies. Quite frankly it’s a relief when, after a very long minute, Jay requests a sidebar (literally) and vacates the floor.

Ocean’s unbelievable vocal range shows in the chorus with an impressive pitch sounding comfortable. Tyler the Creator’s clever partition and sharp-tongued licking of syllables create rhymes where you thought they didn’t exist (c.f. Eminem rhyming orange [obviously explicit]).

Lyric you’ll sing on repeat: “I don’t get weak at the knees, hundreds spread out like a fan”

Ocean uses a robotic, resonating vocal effect (the first time I heard anything like this was on Bon Iver’s “Woods”). The song seems to toy with the pressures put on him by the ‘lens’ of the public, and those close to him; he refers to his late Grandfather Lionel in the outro.

Fame seems to have been a difficult concept for Ocean since the release of ‘Channel Orange’ in 2012. Following what is widely regarded as his breakthrough album there was a 4 year silence where he made very few public appearances. He revealed in an interview with the New York Times that he moved half way across the world to London in order to get away from LA whilst producing his visual album ‘Endless’. As a naturally reflective lyricist, his yearning for isolation is captured perfectly in this song.

Lyric which sums up the song: “Despite the life I lead … Spirits watch me pants down … I feel their smiles on me”



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