That Frank Ocean, eh? He really does know how to toy with our hearts.
Since he released the universally-lauded and Grammy-winning ‘Channel Orange’ in July 2012 – which came after his 2011 mixtape ‘Nostalgia Ultra’ – the world has clamoured, at times in an unashamedly desperate fashion, for more: more ‘Pyramids’, more ‘Lost’, more ‘Bad Religion’.
But has the man formerly known as Christopher Edwin Breaux answered the calls of an entire planet? Barely. Since bringing his first major label album to a close with a signing-off show at Canada’s Pemberton Music Festival in July 2014, there’s been very little sign of Frank publicly, let alone through the medium of new material. The clearest sign of activity came from a teasing Tumblr post that the internet subsequently decided served as the official announcement of Frank’s new album – after all, “I got two versions. I got twoooo versions #ISSUE1 #ALBUM3 #JULY2015 #BOYSDONTCRY” does open itself up for a very obvious interpretation.
And yet, July 2015 (sorry, #JULY2015) came and went with barely a sniff from Frank, and thus the internet let out a collective groan of despair, asking questions that very few people could provide an answer for. When would new material come? Would any new material ever actually arrive? Was this our generation’s ‘Detox’?
Waiting on Frank Ocean's comeback like… pic.twitter.com/YGmtB8ioJZ
— Brooks the Ice King (@brooksballard25) January 13, 2016
And so the news that the 28-year-old possibly held an exclusive, VVVIP listening party in New York City on Sunday night has been met with both elation and some scepticism. Sure, the optimists reckoned, this occasion could herald the moment that we’ve been waiting for. But no, the sceptics countered, this was just another false dawn, a misleading diversion to paradise.
What’s different this time is that we have actual audio evidence that new Frank Ocean material does indeed exist on a laptop somewhere, and that it was indeed played at an NYC listening party at the tail end of the weekend. May we present to you, the jury, exhibit A: a muffled but seemingly genuine video recording of a staircase by an unnamed photographer who’d managed to snag an invite to the party – note the accompanying audio.
That voice… it sounds warmly familiar, doesn’t it? Indeed, that video clip was part of three audio clips that appeared to surface from the evening. Said clips have also been taken down on various streaming sites in the past two days, with the reason being “copyright infringement”. Interesting…
And so, onto exhibit B: OK, so the audio quality here is pretty poor – presumably the photographer spy had to be rather coy about what he was doing – but, if you listen carefully, you can hear a vocal that sounds very much like the unmistakable Frank Ocean.
The above clip begins as a reflective number with a slowed-down trap beat that showcases Frank’s stunning vocal range, from heavenly high notes to an almost conversational style of rap-singing. After a short pause, the track morphs into something with a far bouncier beat.
Whilst there’s still no guarantee that a new album is on the way, there’s reason to be cheerful: the content of these smuggled clips appears to have met the approval of the internet’s specialist Frank Ocean Detective Service, which is promising. The timing makes sense, too: after all, we finally heard from Frank just last month through his unexpected turn on the coda of Kanye’s ‘Wolves’, which dropped as part of the seismic ‘The Life of Pablo’. Frank was also spotted at the extravagant and bizarre album listening party that ‘Ye held at Madison Square Garden, casually standing next to fellow TLOP collaborator Chance The Rapper.
What does it all mean? Well, we could all get a little bit excited again, like we did at the tail-end of last year when a supposed single, ‘White Ferrari’, was meant to drop (and, true to form, it never did). Or, we could treat this latest chapter in the overlong tale that is #ALBUM3 by exercising some restraint – the surfacing of these clips are no doubt good news, but we’ll believe the hype about a new album once it lands in our inboxes.
Ah, screw it: GET READY EVERYONE, THE MESSIAH IS RETURNING. Now let’s all listen to ‘Pyramids’ and get excited for the hopefully imminent release of album three. Ball’s in your court, Frank.