The worst kept secret of Frank Ocean’s music is his reverence for women. All across his discography, in how he writes about sex and the female form, how he summons history, it all culminates in the truth that Frank regards women as ethereal. His appreciation for the power of women comes to a head most directly on channel ORANGE standout, “Pink Matter,” which, from title alone, speaks to the way women are responsible for the world’s orbit. As opposed to the grey matter making up the brain, Frank’s reliance on “Pink” in the title, gendered female, suggests there is innate femininity to all thought in Frank’s world.
“And the peaches and the mangos / That you could sell for me,” Frank says on the intro of “Pink Matter.” The slinking guitar and pensive keys give way to Frank’s gentle voice. These opening lines speak to a distant Frank, one who wanted to use women for their bodies. Not singing these 12 words sets them in their own world, and from that, we can glean Frank is ashamed of his past self. In that way, “Pink Matter” begins as a personal reckoning. Getting into the song itself, Frank begins with a question of the mind and its purpose. Here, “grey matter” juxtaposes against the “Pink Matter” of the title, suggesting without the addition of “Pink,” there is an aimlessness to Frank. As in, without women, Frank’s life is lacking wholeness.
The invocation of the “Sensei” character implies Frank is in a position of seeking knowledge, which affirms our reading of the intro, where Frank is separating his growing self from his past self. “‘What is your woman? / Is she just a container for the child?’” Sensei replies, pointedly. Immediately, the listener is clued into the tone of the track. Well, of course, woman is not merely “a container for the child.” The note here is one of sexual autonomy, of choice, of freedom. At once, we break the scene, and now Frank is falling into an unnamed and amorphous woman. At once, we see Frank taking the lesson of woman as free into account, which gives the verse’s closing line a rapt double meaning.
Taken one way, “My God, she’s giving me pleasure,” is Frank relishing in the ecstasy of sex. Taken another way, however, the woman of this track is elevated. For starters, she’s brought to the level of “God,” at which point we realize Frank believes God to be a woman. Moreover, we recognize Frank sees an overall Godliness in women and the pleasures we share with women. Sex goes from the physical to the sacred space. The wandering Frank who opens this verse has been replaced by a fulfilled Frank Ocean, and his fulfillment comes from setting women free and appreciating their innate power.
For the second verse, we return to Sensei, and we watch as Frank spars with the man. No longer lost and in need of his teachings, they come to blows, and we get the sense being with an unburdened woman has unlocked something in Frank. We get this sense from the first lines of the second verse, too, where Frank begins to question the sky and the stars. His questions border on being conspiratory, but their essence suggests, for lack of a better image, the sex he just had opened his mind.
Hence the fight with Sensei ultimately being moot. Hence the second verse trickling into a repetition of the first: “Cotton candy, Majin Buu, oh, oh, oh, oh / Dim the lights and fall into you, you, you / My God, giving me pleasure.” When Frank asserts that nothing matters then returns to the sex, we get the impression he has been bewitched in the best ways. That, too, is the power of woman. “Pleasure over matter,” Frank sings, affirming our idea that sex has not only opened his mind but has eclipsed his thoughts.
The delivery of these two verses is a feature unto itself, too. Frank’s voice straining and dissolving into the beat as he sings the word “pleasure” brings the sensation of your eyes rolling into the back of your head to life. Frank’s gushy “oh, oh, oh” and “you, you, you,” his near squealing, break him down to his essential elements as a creature in heat. And then the beat shifts, gets funkier, feels as if someone spectacular is about to show off…
What is a “Pink Matter” piece without a discussion of André 3000’s hypnotizing guest verses? His first offering, ending with “Who needs another friend? I need to hold your hand / You’d need no other man, we’d flee to other lands” stands as a model of how weak men can be in the face of the right woman. Where Frank has been matter-washed by the sex, André 3000 is sexless and bereaved. Yet, there’s something so enticing about the leading lady of André’s first guest verse, how she is just too good for Three Stacks himself. How could this be? We wonder.
The absence of the woman from the verse, the pining after her, suggests women do not exist to serve men in André’s world—likely in Frank’s as well—and instead, we must cherish them while we have them. An imperfect man, however, André 3000’s closing verse showcases his frustrations (“For heaven’s sakes, go to hell”) before honoring the woman in question by portraying her as bold enough to rob a bank with no mask. By the close of “Pink Matter,” we get the sense women are immovable forces.
“Pink Matter” is an ode to Woman. The song breaks down how Frank Ocean heralds the female form, the woman’s mind, and his deep respect for women, in general, all through the lens of sexuality. Highlighting women as sexually free and powerful beings makes “Pink Matter” a revolutionary moment for Frank. Not only does he prove he knows how to write about pleasure, but he also proves his understanding of the ends of pleasure, how sex is an exchange with lasting effects. We return briefly to the bridge, where pitched-down-Frank Ocean says: “Blue used to be my favorite color / Now I ain’t got no choice.” As in, “Pink Matter” reigns supreme. The Frank of the intro is no match for the power of woman. That is all the enlightenment Frank Ocean needs.