Is Frank Ocean of this world?
The general consensus tends to be no, probably not. As Channel Orange celebrates its fifth birthday, we’re reminded of just how special he is. With an accompanying mythology that sits equal to the music in the eyes of the die-hards, Ocean is perhaps music’s last real enigma. He appeared from nowhere to then famously disappear, eventually – eventually – reappearing again, somehow even more detached from the world than when he was gone. When you think about it, he didn’t really reappear at all; rather, he chose instead to hover, spectrally, watching us gawp, cluck and squeal as he – no doubt – pondered his next grand dissipation from the hazy afar.
Tomorrow, Frank Ocean will temporarily rejoin the recognisable to headline Lovebox. It marks the second of Ocean’s two festival slots in the UK, the first having come courtesy of Parklife last month. For the East London festival, celebrating its 15th year, it marks something of a coup – just as it would for any music event, anywhere in the world. What will he bring? Good luck calling it. The only certainty is that it’ll be special; that he, even at his most impenetrably introspective, will be utterly captivating. A Frank Ocean appearance truly is an event – and those who are there tomorrow (damn you, damn you all) will happily spend the next few months reminding you of such.
Those joining him across the two-day festival include Solange, Kano, Sampha, Jamie XX, Kaytranada, Chase and Status, Annie Mac, Ray BLK, Jess Glynne and Raye (to name just a few), but – and with the greatest of respects to the other performers, because it is, without question, one of the best lineups of the summer – Ocean is the name that seems to be dominating the conversation. Come next week, you can’t imagine that will have changed much.
Perhaps it’s only because we’ve been hurt before, but for UK fans, you can’t help but feel that this an opportunity that won’t come back around again all that quickly. In today’s age, he really is an artist unlike any other. He’s puzzling, strange, mysterious, distant and idiosyncratic, capable of joy and frustration in equal amounts. But, believe it: tomorrow is one of the most important dates in the musical calendar. It’s gonna be a big fucking deal – those present will know just how lucky they are.
Words by Niall Flynn