Changing Tides: What Frank Ocean Means for the Industry

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Around a year ago, Frank Ocean published a letter via his tumblr, revealing the truth of his sexuality. Here’s the post, but to narrow it down, the section

Comes Out Letter

I’d highlight is: “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. Sleep I would often share with him. By the time I realised I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping,

no negotiating to the women I had been with, the ones I cared for and thought I was in love with.”

Heartwarmingly enough, Ocean’s opening up about his sexuality was widely supported by fans and fellow celebrities alike, to mention but a few Ed Sheeran, Mac Miller, Example, Scissor Sister Jake Shears, Pete Wentz and Beyonce posted the following picture to her tumblr:

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As a member of a group previously accused of homophobia, Ocean’s fellow OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, also known as Odd Future) members came out in full support, including manager Kelly Clancy, Hodgy Beats and Tyler the Creator voiced how proud he was in his own way, perhaps a nod to the head to Ocean’s previous hint in Odd Future Song Oldie.

A couple of celebrities published blog entries in support of Ocean, including Jay Z , who wrote “We admire the great courage and beauty and fearlessness in your coming out, not only as a bisexual Black man, but as a broken hearted one. The tender irony that your letter is to a boy who was unable to return your love until years later because he was living a lie is the only truly tragic detail about your letter” and Russell Simmons wrote: “Today is a big day for hip-hop. I am profoundly moved by the courage and honesty of Frank Ocean. Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear… His gifts are undeniable. His talent, enormous. His bravery, incredible. His actions this morning will uplift our consciousness and allow us to become better people.”

There’s been overwhelming support for Ocean, marred only by the alleged slur from sexist, homophobic, convicted spouse abuser and general waste-of-space Chris Brown, whose accepted return to the spotlight confounds me.

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Alongside his record sales, Frank Ocean’s Grammy – he won Best Urban Contemporary Album (Channel Orange) and Best Sung/Rapped Collaboration (No Church in the Wild) – and Brit win (for Best International Male) do speak to growing acceptance of untraditional sexuality orientation in the music industry and wider industry. Other ‘out’ bisexual celebrities include P!nk, Azealia Banks, Drew Barrymore, Megan Fox, Jessie J, Lindsay Lohan, Nicki Minaj, Billie Joe Armstrong, Evan Rachel Wood, Anna Paquin, Lady Gaga and Angelina Jolie (a list, noticeably almost exclusively white, female, already hyper-sexualised in the press and/or with long term partners of the opposite sex). ‘Coming out the closet’ is a risky business, as actor Rupert Everett found after he came out as gay. He said:
“It’s not very easy. And, honestly, I would not advise any actor necessarily, if he was really thinking of his career, to come out [..] The fact is you could not be, and still cannot be, a 25-year-old homosexual trying to make it in the British film business or the American film business. It just doesn’t work and you’re going to hit a brick wall at some point […] I think, all in all, I’m probably much happier than they are. I may not be as rich or successful, but at least I’m vaguely free to be myself.”

Those who may disagree with Everett, may refer to his roles: previous his coming out in 1989, he played
Woman hungry Tim, Knight Lancelot, compared to more recent post-coming out roles, such as the stereotypical gay best friend of Julia Roberts George and female headmistress of St. Trinians, Camilla.
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In comparison, Ocean seems to be a success story, however he is no longstanding icon like, say, Elton John. Frank Ocean’s music is truly outstanding. Vulnerable and yet strong, Thinkin’ Bout You, Bad Religion and Forrest Gump are highlights, saturated with emotion  Ocean’s beats retain their toughness and softness with audio clips from the beginning of Not Just Money, that are reminiscent of the mother of anyone growing up with a mother who was short on cash, and the importance of the connotations of money. Bad Religion feels naked, its artful and serves as a poignant but undeniably painful reminder of heartbreak and everything that comes along with it. One to add with Someone Like You to the heartbreak playlist. Ocean is a story teller, which is clear through songs like Crack Rock and Pyramids.  Each song is beautiful in its own right, and as a collective body of work Ocean’s mixtape-feel album Channel Orange is astonishing, highlighted by his carefully selected collaborations.

Should Ocean’s sexuality fuel how we read his music? Maybe. Maybe not. But due to the nature of the culture of celebrity, this is inevitable. Ocean seems a promising up and comer, a bright beacon of hope especially in the Black LGBTU Community However, Ocean’s long term effect is yet to be shown.

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