I’ve had massive respect for Frank Ocean for a while now. As an artist, his voice is distinct, set apart, mature, and thought provoking. He is a true lyricist. His approach to music, culture, and, it seems, life in general, is different to the average hiphop or R&B artist. A refreshing kind of different.
Not long ago, I praised him (in a tweet) for playing a part of breaking the monotonous, misogynous, homophobic voice the hiphop and R&B community has become known for. In his song We All Try (on his album Nostalgia, Ultra.), he eloquently sings, “I believe that marriage isn’t between a man and woman, but between love and love.” This line powerfully validates those who are in love but who don’t meet society’s conventional “picture of love”, and indirectly, and more subtly, exposes the fact that there are many “traditional couples”, men and women, who are together, but not in love; I’ve seen both scenarios play out beautifully and tragically before my very eyes.
This week Frank Ocean made another bold step. In a raw, open, poetic way, he shared the experience of his first love on his personal blog. He described what it was like, on a particular summer when he was 19-years-old, to experience love for the very first time, also alluding that the particular person was one amongst many relationships he had had over his teenage years. But that particular time, those particular feelings, and that particular person were different. His first true love.
The way Frank recounts his feelings is beautiful. The love he speaks of is young, innocent, organic, real, vulnerable, and true; the type that gives you those warm fuzzy feelings, the type that makes you want to fall in love, the type that makes you wonder if you ever truly have. The love he explains is different, and more pure, than the average love-equates-sex stance many R&B singers take. Oh, and the person he fell in love with just so happens to be male.
And, on that note, the Internet was flooded with various opinions, feelings, and commentaries. For the most part, I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised by a vast majority of positive responses to his announcement. I expected less. Maybe I wasn’t being fair. Maybe I haven’t acknowledged how far we’ve come. But I saw many comments from this up-and-coming generation, offering support and acceptance, that really made me feel better about “us”.
Of course, there were those who opposed with great fury, promising to never buy or listen to his music again (ironically, his Nostalgia, Ultra. was posted online free for download, and still is). Those (mostly conservative Christians) who immediately retorted, “Well, that‘s not love! He was just confused,” claim to have the monopoly on love. But when I see the venom with which such words are often spewed, the hatred they have seemingly built up against same sex marriage and homosexuality, I recognize that they are no experts on love, and they themselves are confused. Frank Ocean’s depiction of love bears testimony to the many complexities that keep this world spinning, whilst those who narrowly oppose this view merely offer a black-and-white take on a technicolored topic.
Frank Ocean was not asking or telling us to have certain experiences in certain ways. He was merely sharing his experience. He didn’t claim his as the one and only truth. He just offered a glimpse into the reality he’s found himself.
I don’t have to love men to recognize the love Frank Ocean speaks of as genuine. I don’t have to love men to want that type of love, translated to my own personal experience. I don’t have to love men to read his words and feel the intimacy and pain they are laced with. I don’t have to love men to want those who are truly in love, to be able to live in it without persecution. And I don’t have to love men to be thankful for Frank Ocean’s honesty and bravery. And I do love Frank.