Am I getting ahead of myself or is Frank Ocean signaling that he won’t ghost on us this time? “Chanel”, his first solo single since Endless and Blonde, comes after a flurry of activity that includes launching a radio show on corporate patron Apple Music and a jubilant single with Calvin Harris and Migos. “Chanel” likely won’t burn up summer radio like “Slide”, but it sounds something like a touchstone for Frank. It’s no accident that the tracks—one representing his commercial ambition, the other his topical breadth—were released so closely together. “I see both sides like Chanel,” goes a chorus you won’t hear on the radio.
Frank does Frank on “Slide”, piggybacking on Migos’ current pop-rap infallibility and Calvin Harris’ knack for crafting a lasting hit. On “Chanel” he’s solo, where he flourishes. With a conversational rap cadence and an unconcerned croon, he deftly combs through a mixtape’s worth of ideas. His newfound independence in the industry and the money that came with it is contrasted with the experience of being young, rich, and black at home and abroad. Boasts and shout outs abound. A generous dose of queer fucking is thrown in for good measure.
In short, this is what a Frank Ocean victory lap sounds like. Such a thing was only hinted at on Blonde. (“Futura Free” came close, though its braggadocio landed on pillows thanks to the wide-eyed surprise and distrust of success that permeated the track.) It makes sense. Blonde may have been a traditional album, a consummate creative statement. But it was also a huge gamble for Frank, the businessman. 404 million streams later, our hero returns victorious and liberated. You can hear it in his voice: elastic and, for the most part, angst-free.
I can’t know for sure that Frank won’t retreat back into the shadows, but for now, I’m grateful for his generous spirit.