Frank Ocean is Right, a “TV Award” Doesn’t Make Him Successful

By | 6 months ago
"I bought all my masters back last year in the prime of my career, that's successful. 'Blonde' sold a million plus without a label, that's successful."
2017-02-12-frank-ocean-tv-award-success

Tonight is the 59th annual GRAMMY Awards ceremony at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, which is marketed to the masses as "music's biggest night." But can it really be music's biggest night if one of the biggest, most talented artists to release an album during their eligibility period isn't participating as either as a nominee or a performer?

By now, it's widely known that Frank Ocean purposely did not submit his 2016 comeback album Blonde—or his video album Endless—for GRAMMY consideration.

Last November, in a rare interview with The New York Times, he called the process "dated."

In an inflammatory Tumblr post Saturday evening, in response to producer Ken Ehrlich and writer David Wild speculating on Rolling Stone's Music Now podcast that Ocean's decision was really motivated by his "faulty" 2013 GRAMMY performance, Ocean elaborated further on why he came to the conclusion that he didn't need GRAMMY acceptance.

"In reality, I actually wanted to participate in honoring Prince on the show but then I figured my best tribute to that man's legacy would be to continue to be myself out here and to be successful. Winning a TV award doesn't christen me successful. It took me some time to learn that. I bought all my masters back last year in the prime of my career, that's successful. 'Blonde' sold a million plus without a label, that's successful. I am young, black, gifted and independent.. that's my tribute."

Frank's right. When you play by your own rules and color outside the lines—waiting four years to release a follow-up to your GRAMMY-winning debut, releasing a streaming-only visual album to fulfill a record contract with your former label home, buying back your masters before selling a million albums independently—the barometer for success and acceptance must be recalibrated.

For most artists, winning a GRAMMY award—or performing during the broadcast—can mean a huge boost in record and concert ticket sales in the weeks following the ceremony. But if you're Frank Ocean and don't care about selling records or concert tickets, and you don't need a gilded gramophone to serve as recognition for your artistic greatness, who cares?

Later in his Tumblr post, Ocean labeled Taylor Swift's GRAMMY win last year for her album 1989, which defeated Kendrick Lamar's Harvard library-approved To Pimp a Butterfly to win Album of the Year, as "hands down one of the most faulty TV moments I've seen."

While Ocean is spot on with his criticism—Kendrick was robbed—his commentary does suggest a disinterest in being nominated for an album, only to lose to an inferior body of work. In particular, an inferior body of work created by a white performer.

"If you're up for a discussion about the cultural bias and general nerve damage the show you produce suffers from then I'm all for it," wrote Ocean. 

Frank's willingness to end his seething note by offering an olive branch to GRAMMY organizers should be applauded, but his messaging contradicts the entire foundation of his post. If a "young, black, gifted and independent" artist like Frank Ocean doesn't need the gratification that a GRAMMY nod brings to feel successful, why should any artist?

In much the same way a Platinum plaque is no longer the hallmark of a successful album or single, an artist doesn't need an award to be labeled a success.

***

By Z, who pulling for seven Chance GRAMMYs to happen.

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