June 7, 2023

Frank Ocean’s Complicated Relationship With His Fanbase


Frank Ocean has unintentionally had the internet in a chokehold over the past week. Rumors swirled about Ocean releasing a new album along with his headlining performance at Coachella 2023. Now that the dust has settled, most of Ocean’s fanbase has been left disappointed by the result. The overarching sentiment seems to be that the singer doesn’t care about his fans. A user on Twitter stated, “Started the set late, didn’t let them live stream it, now ending the set early … Frank Ocean you will rue the day.”

Headlining Coachella on Sunday night, fans were bemused to find out that the Coachella livestream wouldn’t include Ocean’s performance. We don’t yet have a concrete reason why it wasn’t shared. Was it per the request of Ocean? Did Coachella not want their main act to be shown off to the world? A day after the event, the music fanbase is still baffled by the hour-long performance.

Frank Ocean’s Coachella Performance Was A Mixed Bag

Frank Ocean’s Coachella performance was a mixed bag at best. After months of preparation by the performance event staff, he asked them to “destroy” the laid-out stage moments before he went on. This contributed to Ocean showing up to the performance one hour late. Considering the hundreds of dollars fans spent to see him, it wasn’t the greatest look. At the show’s end, Ocean claimed to his fanbase that he was being forced off stage due to “curfew.” However, the plan was always for the show to end at midnight.

Ocean performed reworked versions of songs such as “Novacane,” “White Ferrari,” and “Bad Religion.” Of course, he also performed some of his hallmark tracks off of Blonde and Endless. “Nights” saw him jumping around the stage, while “At Your Best (You Are Love)” reminded fans of his innate talent as an emotive vocalist. This was especially notable on “Godspeed.” In addition, he implemented an impromptu DJ set in the middle of his performance. It was the disorganization of the show rather than Frank Ocean’s performance which hurt the Coachella 2023 headliner.

Frank Ocean Hinted At A New Album

MANCHESTER, TN – JUNE 14: Frank Ocean performs at The Other Tent during day 3 of the 2014 Bonnaroo Arts And Music Festival on June 14, 2014 in Manchester, Tennessee. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo Arts And Music Festival)

There was hope from fans that he would use the platform to announce a new album. While this wasn’t the case, Frank Ocean did confirm that new music is on the way at Coachella. He stated, “I want to talk about why we’re here because it’s not because of a new album – not that there’s not a new album.” About the new project, he later stated, “But it’s not right now.” It wasn’t the grandiose release of new music that fans hoped for. However, Ocean gave fans just enough to chew on for the near future.

Amid mixed reviews of his Coachella performance and a continuing hiatus from music, the complicated dynamic between Frank Ocean’s fanbase and himself has continued. The tension began all the way back in 2016. Fans were disappointed at Ocean for not releasing Boys Don’t Cry (which later morphed into Endless) sooner. However, Ocean’s reasons for postponing the record were later revealed. He infamously used the project to get out of his deal with Def Jam Recordings.

Ryan Breaux Inspired His Performance

NEW YORK, NY – JULY 26: Singer Frank Ocean performs at Terminal 5 on July 26, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

During Coachella 2023, Frank Ocean revealed to his fanbase that his reasonings for headlining the show were deeply personal. His late younger brother, Ryan Breaux, would force Frank Ocean to go to Coachella with him when they were younger. He stated, “My brother and I came to this festival a lot. I know he would’ve been excited to be here with all of us.” Unfortunately, his younger brother’s tragic passing is another reason for the discourse between himself and his fans. After the news of the accident came out, droves of fans claimed that the emotional experience from his brother’s passing would translate to better music. Along with the pandemic, Breaux’s death reportedly postponed any plans Ocean had for new music.

In an interview with GQ in 2019, Ocean referenced the constant microscope that his fanbase has on him. He stated “As a writer, as a creator, I’m giving you my experiences. But just take what I give you. You ain’t got to pry beyond that. I’m giving you what I feel like you can feel.” As social media has become a huge part of our society, Ocean has unsubscribed from the notion that fans constantly need to be in the know-how.

Ocean Is Purposefully Disconnected

Lastly, Frank Ocean spearheaded the release of the Homer fashion brand last year. Largely releasing luxurious products, he infamously released a $27,000 penis ring in August of 2022. While there’s nothing wrong with getting into the fashion fields, it seemed like a slap in the face to his fans. About this, iconic music reviewer Anthony Fantano stated, “Frank Ocean did an amazing job at gaming the system. Now that he’s established, he’s pitching us the same garbage snake oil that anybody else in a position of capitalistic influence would.”

There’s also the moral question of, does Frank Ocean owe his fanbase anything. With some fans reacting unemotionally to his brother’s passing, this may have further solidified his lack of interest in engaging. However, it seems Ocean’s naturally shy personality doesn’t blend well with the microscopic nature of the internet era. The Louisiana-born creative will continue to do what we wants, whether fans like it or not. Frank Ocean made that very clear with his performance during the first week at Coachella.

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