What’s more beautiful than feeling someone pulse under your knowing touch? The intimacy of flesh is at once sacred and overwhelming, at once languid and delirium-inducing. Sex can be coy, can be sought after, and always, sex makes our heads spin. Penning a song about sex is nothing if not tricky. You have to consider what balances to strike. Will you be trite if you are too much a romantic? Will you be obtuse if you are too direct? How to capture subtlety when discussing something so blanketing and universal? Difficult questions.
The answers, for Frank Ocean, come by way of putting subtlety aside in place of candidness and double meanings. Yes, we’re looking at Frank’s ode to making love and the beauty of physical union, “Nature Feels.” The song—found on his 2011 mixtape nostalgia,ULTRA.—is anything but sneaky. The fifth word is “fuck,” and the first image is that of the Garden of Eden, of original sin. Everything about “Nature Feels” is direct. The track is a bright neon sign—and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. We admire Frank for his sly meanings, but why can’t we admire him for his boldness? Most importantly, can’t we take notice Frank Ocean has it in him to do both?
“I’ve been meaning to fuck you in the garden / Been breathing so hard, we both could use the oxygen / Just hop on my back, I’ll take you down the stairs / Into my backyard and lay you right on the grass”—Frank Ocean, “Nature Feels”
Frank opens the first verse of “Nature Feels” with an overt swing. But take a closer look at the minutiae of the verse. He equates sex to the generation of oxygen as if it is life-giving—which it very well can be. Though we begin with a brash declaration, Ocean’s light and tender touch return immediately. We see him wrestling with his lust, then. This is how you write about sex: By handling it from all angles. Lust is not more or less holy than sentiment or compassion. These feelings can co-exist, and it’s evident from the first verse of “Nature Feels,” Frank does not intend to play favorites.
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The tiny details continue to give this short verse color. We get a youthful image of a piggy-back ride, something so innocent and kind-hearted. This approach pairs well with the notion of descent as if Frank cannot go a moment without reminding us of the sinful connotations of sex. Now, we’re cooking with fire. There is both the underbelly of fucking, and the heart-stopping and evocative quality of sex as Frank lays his lover onto the grass. This is how you write about sex: By capturing how we want to ravage each other and simultaneously be gentle, how love is born of this intersection.
Perhaps it’s Frank’s pouncing delivery, his breathy tones, giving this song its magenta color. Complementary to green—remember all the garden imagery—there’s something light and playful to the sex of this track. Depth is suggested, and yet we never dive in. And we’re content with our floating on the surface. The tension is enough. This is the color of drumming sex. The heart-racing, eyeball-rolling, and equal parts giggling kind of sex that two lovers share when they just begin to fall for each other in earnest.
We get this endearing and bubbling love from the second verse. Again, Frank invokes the notion of Adam and Eve. There’s nothing dirty when Frank warbles, “trying out our first positions.” Instead, we look on curiously. We can’t help but sense a palpable sweetness. Even at his most direct and crude, Frank Ocean does not forget the heart. No wonder we end the verse by witnessing Frank find himself within his lover, witnessing Frank achieve a familiar wholeness. This is how you write about sex: By breaking down the animalistic nature into its more human essence.
“Making love, underneath the cherry leaves / Baby girl, tell me how my nature feels / Said oh baby, up against the cherry tree / Baby girl, I’ll give it to you naturally, naturally”—Frank Ocean, “Nature Feels”
The hook delivers yet another lesson in writing about sex: Absconding the obvious. For as blaring as Frank’s themes are on “Nature Feels,” he never once mentions the particulars. Frank relies on the motif of nature, and our natural inclination for the lewd, to fill in the blanks. The image of the cherry tree, how it signifies spring and rebirth, goes with the image of sex as oxygen-giving, as life-bearing. We see Frank simultaneously tearing it up and fawning over the stunning qualities of sex. He’s at once in control and arrested. This is how you write about sex: By being honest and throwing yourself into the throes of the experience.
There’s blithe energy to “Nature Feels,” speaking for all of nostalgia, ULTRA.. It’s not inexperience per se, but the flit of greenness in perspective that keeps the mixtape from being one of Frank’s more serious offerings. We get the sense he has learned so much, and yet, there is still so much to learn. “Nature Feels” is a sign Frank Ocean is a young master of the craft, well on his way to growing into his pen. Unexpectedly, it is the perfect song to conclude the tape. We end our tour of nostalgia, ULTRA. by coming into consciousness of Frank Ocean’s immense potential as a songwriter.