All Hail Frank Ocean, Pop Musician

Blonde: nice album! One of final yr’s very best. Will undoubtedly stand the check of time. Love it. Can’t get sufficient of it. I’ve by no means totally understood how some information reveal new glories with every passing hear — it’s all there the primary time you hear it, in spite of everything, except we’re speaking about “a living breathing changing creative expression” like The Life Of Pablo — however Blonde does precisely that. It’s at all times getting higher. It’s a real murals.

It can be pop music of a kind, however not the pop music most of us had been anticipating. Ocean’s newest opus is dense and insular and generally resembles indie rock extra intently than the suave R&B he made his identify on — although given Ocean’s famously non-binary method to nearly every little thing in life, to triangulate his music’s style is to overlook the purpose. Even “Nikes,” the venture’s ostensible single, was summary sufficient that our personal Tom Breihan decried it as “barely a song.” Put merely, Blonde is the sort of pop that doesn’t actually pop that a lot; relatively than enchantment to your primary instincts, it attracts you into Ocean’s world on his personal phrases. Endless, the drowsy visible mixtape he launched two days earlier than Blonde, is much more indirect.

In tandem, these initiatives positioned Ocean because the sort of Serious Artiste who shouldn’t be all in favour of releasing summer time jams anymore. Not that summer time jams had been ever precisely his specialty: Most of the best-known tracks from his career-making 2011 mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra and legend-sealing 2012 debut album Channel Orange had been downcast and dreary regardless of their excessive catchiness, typically discovering Ocean misplaced in a cloud of medication and/or melancholy. “Novacane,” “Swim Good,” “Thinkin Bout You,” “Bad Religion” — all distinctive pop songs, however not precisely seashore social gathering music. Still, the likes of “Songs For Women” and “Lovecrimes” and “Pyramids” and “Lost” — to not point out his work writing for Justin Bieber, Beyoncé, and Brandy — prompt Ocean had a wealth of full-fledged pop hits brimming inside him. It was only a matter of letting them out.

In 2017, he’s been letting them out. It’s superb. Every few weeks a brand new episode of his Beats 1 present blonded Radio seems, each containing an infectious new single. Not each one in all them is an outright pop tune, however all of them discover him adapting his distinctive sensibility to the lingua franca of recent radio. Most function visitor verses from the sorts of famous person rappers who appear to rear their heads on each main launch: Migos, Travis Scott, Young Thug. All of them have, uh, drums. With all due respect to Blonde the world is best when this sort of Frank Ocean tune is allowed to exist, too.

First, within the waning weeks of winter, got here a burst of sunshine. “Slide,” Ocean’s unbelievable disco-funk collaboration with Calvin Harris and Migos, was a miracle, a revelation, a real shock — not simply that it existed however that it surpassed my each expectation, so shiny and ethereal and carefree and proper. Rarely have three wildly totally different artists so seamlessly aligned their aesthetics. “Slide” could not grow to be the Song Of The Summer, statistically talking — bizarrely, it by no means charted larger than #34, and Harris appears to have already moved on — but it surely’s already my private Song Of The Summer and we haven’t even hit May but. I’ve listened to it greater than some other observe this yr by a large margin.

A couple of weeks later he returned with “Chanel,” his first correct solo observe of the yr. An ode to fluidity that appears like piano chords mirrored off a mirror, it’s maybe objectively higher than “Slide” — simply as hooky however immersed in Ocean’s moody headspace and saturated with concepts. In a deeply insightful writeup, our Peter Helman famous, “it’s another snapshot of Ocean’s young, restless mind, folding everything from sexuality to celebrity to online fan communities into its shuffling beat and swirling piano. The only throughline is Ocean himself — and that voice, a magical instrument that can turn a simple turn of phrase into an unforgettable mantra.”

Then got here “Biking,” an off-the-cuff flex that brings collectively two of Ocean’s earliest benefactors, Jay Z and Tyler, The Creator. (In 2017, placing Jay Z in your tune is a pop transfer by default.) Then “Lens,” final weekend’s post-808s And Heartbreak Rhodes piano swoon, in “two versions,” one in all them that includes the ever present Travis Scott. Then, barely two days later, a remix of Endless observe “Slide On Me” bolstered by the presence of Young Thug, a fellow iconoclast who has chosen to function deeper throughout the mainstream than Ocean.

Again, these are usually not all honest-to-God pop strikes on par with “Slide,” however they converse with the mainstream in a method Blonde and Endless hardly ever bothered to. Even the truth that they’re rolling out so quickly after Ocean’s final main assertion suggests an adaptation to the fixed demand for brand spanking new music within the trendy pop panorama, notably a hip-hop universe the place oversharing has grow to be the norm and lots of stars launch a number of full-length initiatives per yr. These songs might all believably thrive in a rap and R&B radio context formed by Drake’s genre-agnostic cloud of discontent. I’m nonetheless unsure I imagine they’re actual.

Maybe it’s apparent in hindsight that somebody who zigs and zags as capriciously as Ocean would select this second to go pop on us, after he conditioned us to not count on it by disappearing for years and returning with essentially the most difficult materials of his profession. But I definitely wasn’t anticipating to be blessed with a lot new Frank Ocean music this yr, a lot much less such accessible Frank Ocean music. I don’t know whether or not these tracks are outdated outtakes or new loosies and even the buildup to a different album, however no matter they’re, they’re stunning. And contemplating there’s no telling when he may resolve to show the tap off and return to his reclusive, globetrotting methods, I’m going to savor each second of the unusual new actuality through which Ocean slides on so a lot of his nights like this.

CHART WATCH

All hail King Kendrick Lamar! Kung Fu Kenny landed the yr’s greatest album debut with DAMN., tallying 603,000 equal models and 353,000 in conventional album scales to safe his third profession #1. He joins Drake and Future as the one artists with #1 albums in 2015, 2016, and 2017. He additionally makes certain the Chainsmokers — whose Memories… Do Not Open debuted at #1 final week after I was out on paternity depart — solely benefit from the prime spot for a single week.

Up subsequent is John Mayer, whose The Search For Everything notched a extremely respectable 132,000 models and 120,000 gross sales to debut at #2. That bumps upper-echelon mainstays Drake and Ed Sheeran to #three and #four respectively, adopted by the Chainsmokers at #5. The remainder of the highest 10: Moana, Bruno Mars, Future, Beauty And The Beast, and the #10-debuting Fate Of The Furious soundtrack.

As we segue to the singles chart, Kendrick stays the star. Buoyed by a lot of DAMN. album streams and the continued recognition of its music video, “HUMBLE.” rises to #1 in its third week on the Hot 100, unseating Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You” after 12 nonconsecutive weeks on prime. It’s Okay-Dot’s first #1 tune as a lead artist, following his flip as a visitor on Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood.” Kendrick additionally debuts “DNA.” at #four, making him the primary artist for the reason that Chainsmokers to have two songs within the prime 5.

Speaking of the Chainsmokers, their Coldplay collab “Something Just Like This” falls to #eight this week. It’s their solely remaining top-10 hit after scoring three on the identical time earlier this yr, but it surely offers them 51 straight weeks with a tune within the prime 10, tying Drake for second all-time. Back up close to the highest of the chart, “Shape Of You” slides to #2, adopted by Bruno Mars’ irrepressible “That’s What I Like” at #three.

Just under #four “DNA.” comes Future’s “Mask Off,” rising to a brand new #5 peak largely on the power of the #MaskOffProblem. When it hit #7 final week, it grew to become Future’s first ever top-10 single. Up subsequent is Kyle and Lil Yachty’s “iSpy,” regular at #6, which earlier peaked at #four and is each artists’ highest-charting single. Down at #10 is “XO TOUR Llif3,” which grew to become Lil Uzi Vert’s highest-charting single as a lead artist when it rose to #eight final week (although he went to #1 together with his function on Migos’ “Bad And Boujee). That one was powered by a viral hashtag too. So streaming, meme-ing, and stylistic evolution proceed to transform rap music into pop music.

The remainder of the highest 10 contains two new entries: Zedd and Alessia Cara’s “Stay” rises to #7, turning into the third top-10 hit for every artist and ending a one-week absence of girls within the prime 10. And Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” shoots all the best way up from #48 to #9 because of a brand new remix and video that includes Justin Bieber. Per Billboard, it’s the primary primarily Spanish-language tune within the prime 10 since Los Del Rio’s “Macarena” went to #1 in 1996.

POP FIVE

Fall Out Boy – “Young And Menace”
JFC, FOB. I refer you to Pranav Trewn for additional commentary on this monstrosity.

Lady Gaga – “The Cure”
Taking per week off penning this column means I didn’t get to deal with the brand new Gaga observe final week, so right here it’s now. It’s the return to full-fledged pop music I hoped Joanne can be, but it surely doesn’t soar out at you want I need a Lady Gaga tune to leap out at me — like, perhaps it’s higher to have barely grating songs which might be unmistakably Gaga’s handiwork relatively than vaguely pleasing nameless pop songs?

Brad Paisley – “Drive Of Shame” (Feat. Mick Jagger)
If you’re not a lot of a rustic fan, you in all probability know Paisley as the person behind “Accidental Racist” or maybe as a Nationwide Insurance pitchman, however for causes defined right here he’s probably the most dependable hit-makers in Nashville. And now he has a tune with Mick Jagger that’s extraordinarily competent. Stick round for the guitar solo!

Charlie Puth – “Attention”
Charlie Puth has been this column’s nemesis for almost two years, however I’ve handy it to him: This new single is a few delightfully shadowy lite-funk. I don’t even know who he’s anymore. I don’t even know who I am anymore!

Paramore – “Hard Times”
Paramore’s ’80s pop revival: It ain’t “Ain’t It Fun,” but it surely’s enjoyable, ain’t it?

And if that model of “Hard Times” shouldn’t be for you, perhaps this one is?

NEWS IN BRIEF

  • In a brand new Vogue cowl story Katy Perry speaks about her political beliefs: “I think you have to stand for something, and if you’re not standing for anything you’re really just serving yourself, period, end of story.” [Vogue]
  • Perry additionally teased tomorrow’s launch of her new Migos collaboration “Bon Appétit” by emailing a recipe for cherry pie to her fanclub members. [Idolator]
  • Aaaaand Perry purchased a $19M mansion in Beverly Hills. [TMZ]
  • Taylor Swift was named Sexiest Entertainer in Victoria’s Secret 2017 What Is Sexy listing. [Victoria’s Secret]
  • Swift additionally praised Ed Sheeran’s “ever-present armor of enthusiasm” in Time’s 100 Most Influential People essay. [Time]
  • Harry Styles might be on The Late Late Show for a complete week. [YouTube]
  • Shania Twain will be part of The Voice as a Top 12 key advisor. [Twitter]
  • J. Cole teased a brand new tune throughout his HBO documentary four Your Eyez Only. [Twitter]
  • Rihanna rocked a Gucci diamond bodysuit at Coachella. [Billboard]
  • Frozen The Musical introduced its lead Broadway forged. [Broadway]
  • Also, Frozen 2 is coming 11/27/19! [Twitter]
  • Police are investigating an incident at a Tampa nightclub the place a photographer stated he was sucker punched by Chris Brown. [WaPo]
  • Drake’s home was reportedly burglarized by a fan who stole a number of … drinks. [TMZ]
  • In a brand new Rolling Stone cowl story by Cameron Crowe, Harry Styles speaks about these songs Taylor Swift wrote about him. [Rolling Stone]
  • Lady Gaga and Prince William chatted by way of FaceTime about Gaga’s psychological well being struggles in a spot for the Prince’s charity Heads Together. [USA Today]
  • Here’s Instagram comedienne Lele Pons speaking about Justin Bieber, an investor in her supervisor’s firm: “He tries to be normal. Sometimes he tries to talk, but he doesn’t know how to talk to you. He’s like, ‘I like your skirt.’ You know? Not really a conversation, but he tries.” [NY Mag]
  • Kid Rock is engaged. [Freep]
  • Zedd introduced a brand new headphones line Double Zero. [EDM Tunes]
  • Dua Lipa shared the tracklist for her debut album. [Twitter]
  • Lil Yachty introduced the main points of his debut album Teenage Emotions out 5/26. It options Migos, Diplo, YG & Kamaiyah, Stefflon Don, Evander Griim, Grace, and Sonyae Elise. [XXL]
  • Brad Paisley launched a brand new album Love And War faturing Mick Jagger, John Fogerty, Timbaland, and others. [Tennesseean]
  • Machine Gun Kelly left the stage of his South Florida present throughout “Bad Things” on account of extreme chest ache. Apparently he had been injured (“punched in the chest 65 times”) whereas filming the film Captive State yesterday. [TMZ]
  • “Jay Z once wired money to Mr. Michael in an attempt to invest even more in Uber,” writes The New York Times in an exposé of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s shady progress methods. “Mr. Michael and Mr. Kalanick, giddy at rebuffing a celebrity, wired some of the money back, saying they already had too many interested investors.” [NYT]
  • Robin Thicke will honor his mom on VH1’s second annual Mother’s Day particular Dear Mama: An Event To Honor Moms. [Billboard]
  • Foster The People are counting right down to one thing. [Twitter]
  • Miley Cyrus has an uncredited voice function as Mainframe in a Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 post-credits scene. [Buzzfeed]
  • The New York Times profiled Lana Del Rey’s sister. [NYT]
  • Here’s the trailer for the Dirty Dancing remake with Abigail Breslin. [YouTube]
  • Beyoncé introduced a “Formation Scholars” scholarship program. [Beyoncé]
  • Anderson .Paak, Nile Rodgers, Disclosure, and Bruno Mars hit the studio collectively. [Pitchfork]
  • Kidz Bop introduced a brand new tour with new kidz. [Yahoo]
  • In a newly filed “Blurred Lines” enchantment temporary, attorneys for Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke say that “a ‘groove’ or ‘feeling’ cannot be copyrighted, and inspiration is not copying.” [THR]
  • Pharrell additionally grew to become the primary man to star in a Chanel bag marketing campaign. [YouTube]
  • Here’s a preview of Kygo and Ellie Goulding’s “First Time,” out tomorrow. [Twitter]
  • Best.Cover.Ever. is a brand new expertise competitors sequence coming to YouTube, produced by Ryan Seacrest and that includes Ludacris, Demi Lovato, Backstreet Boys, and Jason Derulo. [People]
  • Hailee Steinfeld, Sofia Carson, and Kelsea Ballerini will sing a Britney Spears medley on the Radio Disney Music Awards. [Billboard]
  • And lastly, Steinfeld’s new single “Most Girls” drops tomorrow. [Headline Planet]

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