This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone with two functioning ears, but Frank Ocean's music has the remarkable ability to soothe on command.
His vocals, a special blend of serene and gentle, often deliver an audible back rub in a calming, circular motion.
If you've ever listened to Frank's work, from his classic mixtape nostalgia, Ultra to his recently-released single "Chanel," you know exactly what I'm talking about. If for some reason you don't believe me, or you refuse to press play on any random entry in Frank's suddenly-expanded catalog, just ask my daughter Zoey.
This past Saturday evening, at roughly 11 p.m. Chicago time before we turned our clocks forward an hour, my wife and I attempted to put our four-month-old down to sleep. Normally—and granted our sample size isn't humongous—if she takes between four and six ounces of formula before bed, she's able to fall asleep relatively fast. On this night, however, she decided to call an audible.
My wife and I tried every trick in the book, from a literal back rub to gas drops to rocking her in my arms, but nothing would calm her down—including the Casio keyboard-esque version of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" that plays from the speakers of her crib mobile.
As her cries began to increase steadily in decibel level, a somewhat random idea suddenly popped into my head—why don't I throw on some Frank Ocean?
The idea to hit shuffle on a Frank mix wasn't completely random—less than 24 hours earlier, Ocean had released his outstanding new single, "Chanel"—it just felt that way because, initially, the thought didn't feel blatantly obvious.
I sat down in Zoey's rocking chair. My wife sat down on the floor. I hit play on my phone.
The first song to come on was the Tricky Stewart-produced "Novacane," which, almost on cue, sent Zoey into a trance-like state. While her crying didn't cease, it immediately began to wane over the course of the track's five-minute and two-second runtime. (And before you judge me for playing a song with the lyric "Stripper booty and a rack like wow" for my four-month-old daughter, it's important to note that babies cannot memorize words.)
Next up was channel ORANGE standout "Pink Matter," a sharp directional change in sound from "Novacane" with its minimalist Malay production meeting Frank's flawless falsetto vocal. By the time the song reached the 2:39 marker, when André 3000 makes his guest appearance with the opening line, "Since you been gone I been having withdrawals," Zoey's cries had completely vanished—holy shit, it's working!—as her face carried the same expression my wife sports after having more than one glass of Pinot Grigio.
Seeing such stunning results just two songs into my Frank shuffle was encouraging, but the plan wasn't only to calm my daughter down, it was to help her go to sleep. As "Pink Matter" ended making way for "Super Rich Kids," my wife and I couldn't help but smile at one another after Frank's opening line, "Too many bottles of this wine we can’t pronounce," perfectly encapsulated the drunken look on Zoey's mug.
With my daughter propped up on my left shoulder and up against my heart, I stood up from the chair and began to sway back-and-forth to the simplistic groove of "Super Rich Kids." My wife also stood up, joining us to form an impromptu dance party in the middle of Zoey's room.
As I was jukin' and jivin', though, it occurred to me that Earl Sweatshirt's verse included the bad word trifecta of "ass-crappy-fuck." If my wife wasn't in the room I would have let the song play out—remember, babies can't remember any words let alone bad words—but I made the executive decision to hit skip just before Earl asked us to close our eyes to watch we can imagine. If you're married with kids, you understand.
Well, hello "Swim Good," thanks for shuffling in.
While "Swim Good" is one of my personal favorites from Frank's catalog, and along with "Novacane" one of two songs off nostalgia, Ultra that captured the most attention pre-channel ORANGE, I was worried that the Midi Mafia-produced effort was a bit too upbeat. With so much progress made in less than twenty minutes, could "Swim Good" potentially undo it all?
To our surprise, however, Zoey remained cool, calm and collected despite Frank "goin off" with no vest—don't try this at home, kids.
As "Swim Good" trailed off like a stone skipping across a pond, I slowly pulled Zoey away from my body, holding her as still as my fatigued arms would allow as I approached her crib on the opposite side of the room, and lowered her in with the expertise of a veteran Operation player. With her eyes nearly shut, "Seigfried" began to play—mood music at its finest.
Before Frank's vocals made their first appearance at the 26-second marker, Zoey was sound asleep. "Seigfried" isn't a song you turn off once it begins, though.
Sure, our mission was accomplished—Zoey was drifting off into la la land—but we had to see it through to the end. After shutting off Zoey's closet light, I took a seat on the nursery floor and my wife replaced me in her rocking chair. There was no light, no crying, just two exhausted parents relaxing to the gorgeous vibes of Frank Ocean's best song.
Once the song ended, my wife and I quietly tip-toed out of her room, carefully shutting the door behind us.
Amused by the success of what we now refer to as the Frank Consolation Technique (or FCT), I decided to tweet out the following:
Are those the five best songs in Frank Ocean's catalog? Maybe. It depends on who you ask. If you ask my daughter, she'd just stare at you. But if she could talk, she might say "yes."
It was in that moment that I came to the realization that what started off as a plan hatched to get my daughter to stop crying and go to sleep had actually become a quite memorable listening session. Even though I had previously heard all five songs from Frank's catalog, this was the first time I pressed play to listen alongside my wife and daughter.
The music was the same, but new memories were being made, and suddenly they were the five best Frank Ocean songs I'd ever heard.
It's true Frank put my daughter to sleep, but in the absolute best way possible.
By Z, who loves to argue with you on Twitter.