It’s difficult to refrain from drawing direct comparisons between Frank and neo-soul magatalent D’angelo. After all, they’re both genre redefining R&B/Soul artists with an impenetrable mystique.
D’angelo originally dropped a game changing debut with Brown Sugar, suffered from writer’s block for a few years...and returned with the arguably greatest R&B/Soul album of all time: “Voodoo.”
After “Voodoo,” D’angelo struggled with the identity he had created for himself. His music video for “How Does It Feel” featured an unprecedentedly sexual D’Angelo clearly naked with the camera showing everything from the waist up, showcasing the 6 months of grueling physical training with a hired drill sergeant, thus creating a man that seemed as though he had been forged as a sculpture. He had become a sex icon virtually overnight.
Women flocked to his concerts, begging him to take his shirt off. He began to question the motivations of all of his fans, slipped into a cocaine addiction after his tour, was involved in a major single-car accident influenced by drugs and alcohol, and proceeded to fall off the face of the Earth for the next decade and a half before eventually releasing yet another classic album 14 years after “Voodoo,” titled “Black Messiah.” One of the greatest talents in music history only creating three albums in 20 years is both unacceptable and borderline torturous.
That is the fundamental split between D’Angelo and Frank Ocean. A young D’Angelo put on a front that he was a womanizer, despite being a softly spoken introvert. Frank’s authenticity as an artist is what separates him. He’s achieved mainstream success simply due to the music.
There was no “How Does It Feel;” there was only “Channel Orange” and his acceptance of a role in the LGBT community as a spokesman for sexual freedom. He has maintained a similar mysteriousness to D’Angelo. Everyone is just holding their breath that that mysteriousness doesn’t turn into absence.