Groove 2012: What Frank Ocean's 'Channel Orange' Taught Us
Hip-hop/urban culture is in progressive flux
When, in June 2012, Frank Ocean publicly posted a letter on his Tumblr outlining his unrequited feelings for an unnamed man, it was taken in various contexts: calculated promotional stunt to push units, or a new era of progressive hip-hop culture? Savvy businessman or sincere artiste? Months removed, the 24-year-old's sexual declaration should be looked at as a small enlightened step for urban music and a larger statement on the progressive social climate he inhabits. The juxtaposition between the outwardly homophobic lyrics and rhetoric of his Odd Future brethren to Ocean's declarative missive on sexual politics reveals a culture in flux — with all the social hypocrisy and incongruities that entails.
Mainstream R&B is back
For all intents and purposes, Frank Ocean represents contemporary rhythm & blues, a traditional genre that spawned and subsequently was buried by dance- and soul-flavoured mainstream pop. Despite not fitting the mould of the conventional R&B superstar, Ocean has dodged "alternative" and "progressive" labels to represent the genre in the modern day. Channel Orange's reworking of the traditional "love and loss" tropes redefine the genre and what it means to make a stylized and successful (read: marketable) R&B project in the new millennium.
Bypassing traditional media isn't career suicide
Ocean's marketing triumphs — in the face of next to no interviews or public appearances — demonstrates an overall willingness to shun the traditional media machine. Engaging more directly with fans via tools like social media, mixtapes and blogs while at the same time intentionally controlling access and image hint at an emerging promotional paradigm where traditional media is increasing losing its place at the "make or break" career table.
Showmanship is overrated
Ocean's concert appearances in 2012 have all demonstrated a consistent "substance over style" pattern. His seeming withdrawn and nervous nature notwithstanding, it can be argued that connecting with the music rather than being concerned about gimmicks or showmanship is working in his favour. And in the case of his live TV appearance on Saturday Night Live in September, his minimalist yet powerful set — including a casual John Meyer guest spot and old school Galaga arcade motif — prove that his unwillingness to play by industry rules is perhaps setting a template for urban artists to come.
NewsJul 30, 2015
Fat Mike Reflects on 25 Years of 'Quality Punk Rock'
While it was Fat Wreck Chords co-founder "Fat" Mike Burkett who revealed plans for his label's upcoming "Fat Wrecked for 25 Years" tour in a...
FeaturesJul 29, 2015
Titus AndronicusAmbition In Five Acts
Since Patrick Stickles rose up with fists held high in July 2005 as frontman for Titus Andronicus, he and the band have done nothing half-as...
StreamsJul 28, 2015
Keita Juma"Come Over" (ft. Brendan Philip) on Exclaim! TV
Born in Bristol and based in Toronto, Keita Juma's music is a fusion of sounds from both cities; he blends England's moody electronic with i...
NewsJul 28, 2015
An Essential Guide to Ornette Coleman
How does one measure a lasting impact on music? Someone whose influence lasts a decade or even a generation? What does "an impact on music" ...
FeaturesJul 24, 2015
Maestro Fresh Weson Exclaim! TV Sweet 16s
Maestro Fresh Wes's 1989 track "Let Your Backbone Slide" still holds the title of the best-selling Canadian hip-hop single of all time, whic...
NewsJul 23, 2015
Lamb of God Talk 'VII: Sturm und Drang,' Clean Singing and Being 'Anti-Noodle'
In comparison to many recent albums, Lamb of God's VII: Sturm und Drang (out July 24 on Nuclear Blast) is slim and trim at ten songs. That's...
NewsJul 23, 2015
Iris Dement Channels Poetry on 'The Trackless Woods'
A powerful experience led Iris Dement into The Trackless Woods, the songwriter's sixth album. Based on the work of celebrated modernist Russ...
StreamsJul 22, 2015
The Lonely Parade"Girl" on Exclaim! TV
Augusta Veno, Charlotte Dempsey and Anwyn Climenhage are the Lonely Parade, a punk-y indie rock trio from Peterborough, ON. Their debut albu...