Like many music listeners, I’ve been a big fan of Frank Ocean for some time. For some reason though, I had only listened to one of his, as of last year, three albums. Even before his newest album, I couldn’t get enough of Channel Orange, so you might think I would have listened to his debut mixtape, but no way. Sometimes with music I get so hooked on one album, or one song even, that I don’t want to leave it for anything, which is why this review is so limited.
I love this song. I liked the Coldplay song, and I’m not bothered at all that Frank just took the song, inserted his own lyrics and vocals, and added some beautiful sounds. The original song, though good, was lacking. It had a good foundation, but didn’t take things to that higher place all great songs must go to in order to be considered great. Frank took that foundation and brought it to that next level. His lyricism puts Coldplay to shame. And his falsetto is the stuff of dreams.
There are some moments of this song that are beyond explanation, I’m just going to tell you what they are for me and include the timing so you can listen to them yourself (though please, listen to the whole song all at once first). When I first listened to the song I thought it was good, but at first what it added beyond the base – i.e., the Coldplay song – which I already liked. But then the undercurrent of nostalgia hit me like it sometimes does when it’s well expressed. I’ve become less a fan of nostalgia lately, as I think it can be indulgent and wrongheaded to obsess over an unachievable past, but Ocean makes it about childhood here, which is a nostalgia worth remembering. For the most part, I like being an adult more than a kid, but, damn, some of those long summer days I wouldn’t mind living again.
Then Ocean knocked me on the floor when he belts out “we are all mortals aren’t we?” I was so unprepared for that. He sings it so beautifully, like someone who agonizes over death like a human being, but at the same time doesn’t obsess over it or, like so many Silicon Valley d-bags, obsess over how to defeat it. By making the song about mortality Ocean conjures another of the most real varieties of nostalgia – the longing for life itself in the face of its certain end. Life is beautiful and, when thinking about death, a human being should feel sad when facing the knowledge that it will end.
Finally, I love the way he sings “Cry cry cry.” The way he sings it…those three words stand alone. They reverberate around your head all the time. The moment just depends on who you are and what you’re doing, but if you listen, really listen and let it take over you for a second, it will linger and you won’t be able to get rid of it until you move onto the next thing, whatever that may be. You’ll be walking the streets – you’ll see a homeless man and you’ll hear Ocean singing “cry cry cry.” You’ll catch the slanting late afternoon light on a clear day as it hits something you find beautiful anyway, but it’s all the more beautiful at that place and time and you’ll hear Ocean singing “cry cry cry.” You’ll hear someone who you like and respect, but don’t love, tell you that they love you and you’ll hear Ocean singing “cry cry cry.” (I hope that last bit doesn’t happen. If it does, you should do that other person a favor and not lie to them, or, you should decide to take care of them so well that your care will make up for the fact that you don’t love them.)
It’s these kinds of things that make a song something special. It’s these kinds of things that compel me to write a review of just one song. I like the little things that, when you really think of them, blossom and fill my mind and heart and soul with joy.