Do you ever love a certain piece of music so much that you know nothing that artist brings out after it will ever mean as much to you?
It’s a problem for me and also something that bugs me a lot. There was a significant time in my life in 2013 where I listened to two albums by my favourite artists on repeat to help get me through and now nothing those artists create feels as good as what they created back then because I’m still stuck on it, because I’m still living in the past and wanting to hold on to that moment. Those albums represent a moment in my life and take me back to a time I wish I could relive therefore I can never move on from them, it feels as though none of their new music will ever mean as much.
I still love the new music of course, I still enjoy it and listen to it, but it’s unlikely it’ll hold as big a place in my heart as the old stuff, because it has a memory and a feeling connected to it that will always be there.
One of the albums in question, is Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange – my second favourite album of all time (after Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die – The Paradise Edition, but we’ll leave that for another day).
A big fat masterpiece of an album that I know you will all have heard of. Channel Orange was the start of so many things for me, at 14 it introduced me to a whole new style and genre of music, a whole new feeling. The whole album in general was nostalgia for me, I am such a nostalgic person in general and so to listen to music that made nostalgia feel as though it was something tangible just blew my mind. It was warm and nostalgic and during that time in my life I was doing a lot of soul searching, I was lost and sad and nostalgic for things that had been ripped from my life forever that I knew I would never get back. My life was never going to be the same again. I had to figure out how to rebuild it along with myself in order to continue living, because I was so fragile and scared for what the future had to hold. I missed what I used to have and knew I would never have again. Channel Orange was a comfort blanket for me, it turned my feelings into music that I could listen to and then live through, it was nostalgia in an album that had a definitive start and end. It made me feel like I was living in a warm, nostalgic daze that I never wanted to leave. I knew nothing Frank ever created after that was going to mean as much to me.
Years later I would still write about the album. I was 14 when it was released but only began taking notice a year later when I was 15, also the year that everything changed for me. I listened to it throughout my last years of high school when I was 16 and through every summer, and in late 2016 I wrote a small journal excerpt depicting a single memory of a feeling it gave me during that time –
“I’ve listened to channel orange ever since it came out, it reminds me of old, nostalgic America. Kind of like the sun is always setting and everything is hazy and chilled…and fucking great. It was Summer 2014 once and I was revising for my exams, we were in science class but in the english room because we needed the computers. All the music sites were blocked but I found one that let me stream channel orange and I used to get distracted by it because the album is just so cool. My computer was directly in front of this giant window with white panels, the sun was shining and there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky, it was just all clear blue. I got distracted and I’m there just staring out of the window at this wide open blue sky listening to Frank and then I see this single aeroplane go across the sky leaving a trail of white behind it and I think, I wonder if they’re going to LA or California (the nostalgic, hazy version) and I just think wow, I wish I was on that plane.”
I also wrote about it here, where I spoke about the feeling of home. Channel Orange and The Paradise Edition are both home for me and both artists feel like old friends. I love them very dearly and support them always, they gave me what I needed most during that time. Freedom and warmth. They made me feel like home. They are parts of me and always will be and I know I’ll always live on through those albums. I’d like to think that someday when I’m gone, someone will listen to them both start to finish and hear my voice in every song, singing along with them. My life in those lyrics, my presence in the feeling.
Frank didn’t release anything else for the next four years and with some artists that would be okay, but with Frank it was different.
Frank Ocean exists where he chooses to, which, is only through his Tumblr account that I’ve been following since 2012. There have been endless times where I’ve scrolled through his archive and marvelled over every photograph, every post and every thought. I’ve written all of his posts down into my journal because he has such an intricate and fascinating mind that I fall in love with every time I hear it. I’d love to live my life with him, which may sound weird, but his mind is so wonderful, I’d love to experience life with him and live in the world he’s created for himself. His mind is so vivid, so beyond our time here on Earth right now, imagine having his number and just being able to text him when you wanted to, to hear his thoughts and opinions on the things going on in the world or what he was writing about last night at 3am. There are some people in life that are from another time and I truly believe Frank Ocean is one of them, he makes me feel nostalgic for everything, including places I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met, experiences I’ve never had and lives I’ve never lived, he makes me feel nostalgic for all of them. I’d love to exist alongside him and figure out his magic, because that’s what he truly is.
Like I said, he exists where he wants to, which is barely anywhere at all, yet his music is always a constant presence. Four years without new material was a long time to wait for me because I needed it and I needed his voice, yet there was never any updates or any news, because he stays hidden, he stays out of the limelight in his own world that ceases to exist anywhere on this Earth and that’s what makes him so great, that’s what makes me wish I could live there with him.
Blond came out in 2016 and I don’t know what I was expecting. I was so excited but it wasn’t until I listened that I realised how attached I was to Channel Orange. Nothing was ever going to compare to that, nothing else was going to hold such a big place in my heart. I listened to Blond and I loved it and I appreciated it, but not in the way I knew I could. I only knew the choruses and skipped a couple of tracks I wasn’t really feeling, but that wasn’t Frank Ocean for me. He’d moved on with his music and I hadn’t, so I decided to wait.
It’s now 2018, 2 years since Blond was released. I don’t know what prompted me to listen to it properly again, but I did. It was like a light had switched on in my brain and before I knew it I was pressing play.
One of the things I love about Frank is that he really makes me think. Whether that be in his interviews (which are rare to come by), his Tumblr posts (which unfortunately are few and far between these days) or his lyrics, he really makes me analyse things. I sit and absorb every word and let the music pour into me as if it was my own. I love analysing and I love trying to get inside people’s minds, to feel what they felt and understand it, artists like Frank and Childish Gambino are my favourites because I’m forever Googling their lyrics to hear other people’s interpretations and read their stories, to see what these songs mean to them and how they themselves have chosen to absorb it. I sit there for hours scrolling through threads and reading how it makes people feel – you don’t get that with artists like Drake and Chris Brown, you never would. Artists like Frank are from a whole other universe, their mind is on a whole other level.
As I was listening to Blond this time around it was like everything in me stopped, I was intending to listen to it whilst doing something else but I couldn’t, before I knew it I was sat there completely still staring at the sky and once again absorbing everything that was being played around me, and that’s when I knew it was the right decision to wait those 2 years instead of trying to force myself to enjoy something I couldn’t get into and admitting I didn’t like it so much. Like I said, I’d listened to the songs during this time but they just didn’t settle with me the way I knew they could, I knew something in me needed to move along first.
Self Control started playing and I didn’t realise I’d been holding my breath until I heard one of my favourite lines and let out a big sigh. This song was one of my favourites when I originally listened to Blond, because it had so many heart stopping lines in it, for me anyway. It was one of those songs that kept on giving, lines being sang that forced me to keep pausing the song as I thought, oh my God, I have to write these down somewhere.
“You cut your hair but you used to live a blonded life.”
“Wish I was there, wish we’d grown up on the same advice, and our time was right.”
“Now and then you miss it, sounds make you cry, some nights you dance with tears in your eyes.”
This time around was when I listened to the song properly, for the first time, without even realising I was sat completely still and suddenly tears started falling down my cheeks. I don’t know what came over me but I was so overwhelmed with emotion I couldn’t hold it all in. When I hear this song, I don’t have anyone in particular in mind but that doesn’t matter, because I still completely feel it. I become so overwhelmed with nostalgia and emotion, and that’s why sometimes you have to wait 2 years before you can experience things properly. That’s why you have to go back to them and realise maybe, you just needed some time. You hadn’t quite reached that place yet and you needed to do your own growing in order to get there, but now you have and you can embrace it for everything that it is.
As usual, I instantly searched Self Control because I wanted to see how it made other people feel and as always, I was not disappointed. I spent hours completely mesmerised by people’s words and stories, here’s one I especially liked –
There’s another song on the album, track 17, called Futura Free. I searched this one months before this ‘listening session’ as we’ll call it, because it was during yet another time I was trying to listen to the album but couldn’t get into it. This song however, is different, because it’s made up of so many things and the lyrics are so fantastic. It’s a very different type of song in the sense that to me it’s not even really a song at all, just a long stream of thoughts, sounds and consciousness mixed together with a beat in between – I love Frank’s mind, I love the thought that goes into his work because it really is art. The song is nearly 10 minutes long and includes an interview during the second half, which serves as the ending of the album. A lot of people don’t like the interview because you (deliberately) can’t really hear what’s being said through the white noise and muffled sounds that have been layered on top of it – you have to really pay attention and even then it’s difficult to make out who’s saying what, as the interview is a mash of snippets put together one after the other which therefore makes it incoherent. I’ve read the transcript for this interview so many times because I’m so intrigued by it – why it is the way it is, basically. How to make sense of it, what I think it means, what other people think it means, etc.
There’s actually a part in it where they say my name too, which is completely random and irrelevant (I don’t know who the Chloe is that they’re talking about) but I just thought that was really weird, in the best way. Like I said, on the actual track it’s hard to make out what’s being said but once I read the transcript and followed along with it I could hear my name clearly and I was like wow, that’s so weird. The universe works in strange ways, right?
There’s also Nights, which is a masterpiece all on its own. The song is notorious for its beat drop at exactly 3:30 during the song – the halfway point of the album. I often find myself going about life with it playing in my mind – you know how some people say if you looked inside their head all you’d hear is elevator music? If you looked inside mine you’d hear the beat change in Nights by Frank Ocean. It’s a constant. It was in my head even before I decided I was going to write about this track, which was only a minute ago before I began typing this. It’s one of those things that you either understand or don’t, 99% of people get it, but there’s always a 1% that don’t understand why it’s so magical, which is fine, but it’s also not something you can really explain. It’s something you feel.
Like I said, that’s what I love about Frank and his music. I listen to a song and I want to know everything behind it, because there’s always a meaning. I want to know where the inspiration came from and what hour of the morning he wrote it in, who it may or may not be about, how many connotations does it have? I want to know how other people perceive it, do they feel it in the same way I do or does it mean something else to them completely? It makes you think, it makes you feel, it makes you connect. With yourself, the universe, other people, you name it. I think Frank’s music makes us all a little more human, and that’s why the experience is so great.
As I said earlier, it was 4 years before Frank released new music. Channel Orange was so significant to me because it was attached to a time in my life when my whole world was flipped upside down and therefore that was all I knew for the next 4 years, because there was nothing else to relate to – there was no new music. He was gone, which meant my attachment to Channel Orange lasted longer than it should have, that era spanned out for way longer than intended which is why I think I got so invested, because I had 4 years of the same thing. When Blond was released, I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t moved on from the first album yet, so I couldn’t become as encapsulated in it as I wanted to, but now 2 years on, I have. I’m ready now.
Rediscovering that part of myself has sparked so much creativity within me, it made me feel like my ‘old’ self again, whatever that was. I’ve had trouble writing in my journal as of late and I was really missing it, but throwing myself back into this part of me that had been distant for so long allowed me to just pick up a pen and write pages and pages of things that I didn’t even know were still in me. It’s been so great, I feel like I’ve just been going home again. I feel like I’m finally back to doing the things I should be.
There’s always going to be parts of me that people don’t understand, and I’d be lying if I said that didn’t scare me a lot. I just feel like there’s so much of me, and not in a bad way, because I’ve learned to love those parts of myself, but there’s so many layers to me, I am such an emotional person and I feel everything so deeply. My emotions are so full and vast and I swear I feel everything 10x more than the average person does, everything affects me because I feel all of it, I take it all in and feel it and process it and think about it and there’s so much to me I just think, is there really ever going to be somebody someday that understands all of that? Is someone ever going to be able to understand why I love the things I love? Or why certain things affect me in the way that they do? The fact that albums like Blond and Channel Orange mean more to me than I could explain…is someone ever going to understand that? Are they going to want to?
If I explain something about myself to someone, I don’t want them to sit there and say “aw, that’s nice”, I want them to feel it. Like no, can’t you see? Can’t you feel what I feel?
It’s not about validation, I don’t need that anymore. I validate myself. I guess I’d just like someone to know me and understand the way I work, because I guess no one really ever has, not fully anyway, but it would be nice. I’d like to share things with people and for them to want to know about it too and to feel the way I do, just to experience the same thing. Just to know you understand what the other is thinking.
Even things like this post – it’s almost 4000 words of me just talking and normally I’d only post half of it because I know people aren’t interested in me contemplating music and the way it aligns with the universe and the way it makes me feel, but that’s okay. I’m so proud of the things I’m creating lately and I like talking about the things that go on in my head, I do. I love my thought process and I love the way things make me feel, I love the fact I can write 4000 words about an album and make you understand it more than a review in a magazine could. Is that arrogant? Maybe. I hope not. I really have fallen in love with my mind lately and I’m just trying to embrace that for everything it is. This is just a stream of consciousness about someone who taught me what forever means – 2012 was the start of a whole new world for me. Channel Orange was released and changed everything forever, because Frank Ocean isn’t someone you hear on the radio or whose music videos you see on TV. He does his own thing and if you get it, you get it, and you appreciate it. I’m glad I get it. I’m glad I get to appreciate the artist that he is and the masterpieces he creates. At 14 it was the first time I explored my own personal music taste rather than just being influenced by what was being played on the radio or by the music videos on TV. It allowed me to explore this whole other world and give me a Summer I’ll always remember, because in some ways it never ended. It still hasn’t, it still lives on within the nostalgic daydream that’s always been alive inside me.
I’ll tell you a story, in the 6 years I’ve known of Frank Ocean, I’ve only ever heard a song of his play on the radio once. Once. It was 2012, after Channel Orange had been released. I was 14 and my school was around 30-40 minutes away from where I lived. My friend and I would normally catch a school bus there but on this day we missed it, so her dad drove us instead. I took my headphones with me everywhere back then and we’d all just sit there in silence listening to our own music, but for some reason on this day I didn’t have my headphones in. I can’t remember if it was because I’d forgotten them or if I just wasn’t wearing them at this point, I think it was the latter. Her dad had the radio on and this song started playing and I just thought…what is that? I’d never heard it before and couldn’t tell who was singing it, but I fell in love with it and waited until the song had finished for the radio presenter to tell us who and what it was.
It was Lost, by Frank Ocean.
Since that day, I have never heard him on the radio since. Ever. Not even a mention of his name. But on that one day in 2012 when he was playing, I just happened to have missed the bus and be in the car at the right time with the right radio station playing and no headphones in, even though I wore them 99% of the time.
Isn’t that weird? Isn’t that fate?
I was Lost, and then I was found, and it worked out, and now I’m home. And 6 years later I’m here, writing this. And you’re reading it, and I wonder what you’re thinking.
I heard my name in the 17th track on the 3rd album and wondered if it was for me. Guess I’ll never know. I don’t want to. I like mysteries. If you like them so much sometimes you become one, I think that’s what happened to us.
How far is a light year ? How far is a light year?