Six years ago today, Frank Ocean released his commercial debut album channel ORANGE, which would go on to win a GRAMMY for Best Urban Contemporary Album and cement him as an all-time creative star. To celebrate, a handful of Ocean’s collaborators, including Pharrell Williams, discussed his musical legacy on Apple’s Beats 1.
“He is the arc of no compromise, no concession and very colorful with it,” Williams said. “I feel like that's what is very interesting about his journey, because if you understand him, then you know anything that he's ever done is just what he's really, really felt. Nothing ever feels like a mistake with him, but of course, we all—as human beings—make mistakes. But his ability to make nothing feel like a mistake and everything has a purpose, even his flaws, just seemed to be well thought-out.”
Taking a look at Frank Ocean’s catalog, Pharrell is spot-on. In terms of content, Ocean has built a career out of making his mistakes appear purposeful. Hit songs like “Novacane,” and the whole of Blonde are predicated upon the sting of romantic fallout and the beauty of the subsequent lesson. Ocean’s journey to independence, too, for all its hiccups, remains a mythical tale of creative freedom.
Consider the rollout of Blonde and how Endless preceded the album with what seemed to be a benign and formless short film that left certain fans embittered and questioning Ocean’s taste and seriousness about music. Yet, with the CDQ version available, Endless plays as a necessary installment in the Frank Ocean discography.
Really, what Williams is hitting at is that Frank Ocean has mastered the art of humanizing himself on wax, and all of his music is better for it.