Review Nikes- Frank Ocean.
After years at sea Odd Future singer-song writer Frank Ocean drenched us us this week with 'Nikes' his debutant from new opus 'Blonde'.
Frank Ocean set the world alight in 2012 with much anticipated first album Channel Orange; funk flavoured, poignant, soulful heavy and earnest, Frank arguably set the tempo for world pop music for the next few years.
After a disappearance from the music scene that would make his own absentee father blush, Frank finally returned with trap/soul opener 'Nikes' this week, sounding as open, honest and unashamedly cryptic.
At just over five minutes it's no 'Pyramids', but just as ambitious in scope. Nikes opens up dialogue with the listener on issues of desire, duality and commercialism. The reverb and echo on his heavy kicks teamed with a vicious rolling snare gives a familiar submerged effect, reminiscent of early A$AP/ Clams Casino collaborations like 'Palace'. The downtempo trap soon gives way to soft guitar, a harp sample and Frank's trademark auto tuned voice for an almost gospel crescendo.
Lyrically, Frank pairs seemingly throwaway ghetto lyrics like 'these bitches want Nikes, they looking a cheque; tell em it ain't likely' with classical references that betray his more literary education: 'you must be on that white like Othello'.
This illustrates the whole point of 'Nikes'; Frank knows that he is: what collaborator Tyler branded 'a fucking walking paradox'.
Bisexual Frank has laboured that he is a drug addled, free cursing, womanising hip hop star. But in the nuances of Nostalgia and more so Channel Orange, we saw a sensitive, romantic soulful philosopher. He wants us to see him as both simultaneously and if we cannot deal with that, then with Nikes Frank proves that he really could not care less.
80s babies or later know about pining for a pair of Nikes. Stalking them in store, dreaming of them, saving and sacrificing then taking them home. A luxury trainer made by the poorest of one country to sell a dream to the poorest of another. Another paradox.
Ultimately, Nikes can be seen as a loose metaphor for Frank's views on the celebrity culture in the music industry.
An unapologetic Muso, Frank has postponed and played with his album over the last year to make true fans salivate and be patient whilst he crafts his art (literally, read; visual 'Endless') In Nikes we catch a stream of consciousness of Frank that is elitist in its abstraction and at once contagious in beat and flow.
His dazzling video sees Frank frolic with painted Devils, vajazzled lap dancers and end in drag covered in glitter on stage. His Nike Cortez's, emblematic of discovery; are ever present as Frank struggles to define his experiences since attaining mainstream success.
The embrace of his music wraps the listener in a cocoon of soft lilting lyrics that don't have to challenge the natural order with a Kanye like aggression but just offer ideas with a softness and suggestion.
Simply, Frank would never tell his audience what to think, so taking his lead I would recommend fans to listen three or four times and decide if Nikes offer us rain, or glitter.