Frank Ocean Drops New Single 'Provider', Shows How Personal He Can Get
    • MONDAY, AUGUST 28, 2017

    • Posted by: Annie Brinich


    On Sunday night, Frank Ocean posted a lyric video for his new song "Provider" on his website. The video features the studio of Tom Sachs, a visual artist based in New York City, who has used the "Hello Kitty" figure in a number of a controversial works. Sachs outfits a boombox with larger speakers and a machete before inserting a tape that plays Ocean's new single. Hello Kitty's floating head is used to guide the viewer along the lyrics of the song, Mickey-Mouse Sing-a-long style. Besides having a long history of working with retrofitted electronics, Sachs' work has often featured Hello Kitty, an intriguing cultural figure he once described as a "merchandising icon" with "an almost Buddhist sense of nothingness."

    Frank Ocean's music has also often been fascinated by nothingness, by the application, then removal of, sound. In "Provider", Ocean plays noticeably with volume, some lines and words being barely audible, or cooed in a quiter, distorted voice. He layers a somewhat erratic drum beat over a simple keyboard arrangement after his first verse, but the drums weave in and out of the 4-minute track.


    What Frank Ocean does best lyrically, he continues to do in "Provider": he sets his private, inner thoughts to music. Ocean's journal-like approach to music feels therapeutic. It's as if he is giving himself a moment to think about something that's just happened, and think about why he felt or reacted the way he does. He collects moments he's spent somewhere, or with someone, and plays them over in his head, noting how things look, how they feel, what they sound like, and why they affected him. His lyrics reference his personal, private relationships and experiences, so much so that they seem cryptic, like diaristic shorthand.


    I know that this makes Frank Ocean maddeningly inaccessible for a lot of people. But for me, it's like hearing a friend tell a story about their day, or their childhood, or their ex. His music is personal, and because he's willing to share intimate moments and thoughts, heartachingly honest. He isn't lashing out at rivals, making a political statement, or vying for a spotlight. He's just talking about his life. In "Provider", he describes a friend with whom he shares a deep sense of loyalty, replaying moments when their closeness was most apparent.


    "Provider" is the fifth single Frank Ocean has released this year, a good sign that his next album might not take as long as "Blond", his 2016 album (that was very much worth the wait.)

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