Sunday, February 10, 2013

Out Spotlight

Today's Out Spotlight is an American singer-songwriter from New Orleans, Louisiana. His early career was as a ghostwriter for artists such as Brandy, Justin Bieber, and John Legend and tonight he is up for six Grammy awards this evening. Today's Out Spotlight is Frank Ocean.

Christopher Francis Ocean was born Christopher "Lonny" Breaux on October 28, 1987, in Long Beach, California. Around the age of five, he and his family moved to New Orleans, Louisiana where he grew up around its local jazz scene and listened to his mother's CDs on her car stereo, including albums by Celine Dion, Anita Baker, and The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack. As a teenager, he did neighborhood chores and saved up money to rent studio time. As he recalled, "Oh man I had numerous hustles [...] Washing cars was one of them, and mowing lawns and walking dogs." Ocean enrolled in the University of New Orleans and moved into its dormitory in 2005.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit Ocean's hometown of New Orleans and his recording facility was looted and destroyed by floodwater. To continue recording music, he moved to Los Angeles and intended to stay for six weeks. However, after acclimating himself with music industry circles, Ocean planned to stay longer and develop his music career. He recorded demos at a friend's studio and shopped them around LA. After getting a songwriting deal, he started working with other record producers and writing songs for artists such as Justin Bieber, John Legend, and Brandy. Ocean later said of his work at the time, "There was a point where I was composing for other people, and it might have been comfy to continue to do that and enjoy that income stream and the anonymity. But that's not why I moved away from school and away from family."

After meeting them in 2009 through networking, Ocean joined the Los Angeles-based hip hop collective OFWGKTA, also known as Odd Future. His friendship with Odd Future member Tyler, The Creator reinvigorated Ocean's songwriting. In late 2009, he met Tricky Stewart, who helped him sign a contract with Def Jam Recordings as a solo artist, though he was initially unable to build a relationship with the company. In 2010, through a legal website, he changed his name from Christopher Breaux to Christopher Francis Ocean, which was inspired partly by the 1960 film Ocean's 11.

In addition to writing songs for Justin Bieber, John Legend, Brandy, and Beyoncé Knowles he has also worked with artists such as Nas and Pharrell Williams. On February 18, 2011, Ocean released his first mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra, to critical acclaim. The mixtape focuses on interpersonal relationships, personal reflection and social commentary. National Public Radio's Andrew Noz said Ocean's songwriting is "smart and subtle...setting him apart from the pack." Rolling Stone magazine's Jonah Weiner wrote that Ocean was a "gifted avant-R&B smoothie". In April 2011, Ocean stated that his relationship with Def Jam strengthened since the release of the mixtape.

Ocean reappropriated the music from The Eagles' song "Hotel California", on "American Wedding" from Nostalgia, Ultra. When asked about it, Ocean stated that Eagles band member "Don Henley is apparently intimidated by my rendition of 'Hotel California'. He threatened to sue if I perform it again." In response to Ocean's comments, The Eagles legal representative released a statement: “Frank Ocean did not merely 'sample' a portion of the Eagles’ 'Hotel California,' he took the whole master track, plus the song’s existing melody, and replaced the lyrics with his own. This is not creative, let alone 'intimidating.' It’s illegal. For the record, Don Henley has not threatened or instituted any legal action against Frank Ocean, although the Eagles are now considering whether they should." Chris Richards of The Washington Post remarked that "certain boomers don't like [Ocean] as much" as "information-age babies" due to the controversy.

In 2012, the BBC announced that Ocean finished second place in its Sound of 2012 poll. Ocean appeared at the Coachella Festival as well as at Lollapalooza at the end of his 2012 summer tour.

His debut studio album, Channel Orange, was released in July 2012. The album was promoted with three charting singles: "Thinkin Bout You", "Pyramids", and "Sweet Life".

On June 8, 2012, a single from the album Channel Orange, entitled "Pyramids", was made available for download on Ocean's Tumblr blog. On July 10, 2012, Ocean made his debut television performance with "Bad Religion" on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The same day, Ocean released his album one week ahead of schedule for digital download on iTunes and free streaming on his Tumblr blog. All other forms of distribution for the album became available on July 17, 2012.On September 6, 2012, Frank Ocean performed a stripped-down, minimal version of his Channel Orange single, Thinkin Bout You, at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards which was held at the Staples Center arena at L.A. Live in Downtown Los Angeles.

On July 4, 2012, Ocean wrote an open letter, intended for the liner notes on Channel Orange, that would preemptively address "speculation about his same-sex attraction;" he instead blogged it on Tumblr. The open letter recounted the unrequited feelings he had for another young man when he was 19 years old, citing it as his first true love. He used the blog to thank the man for his influence, and also thanked his mother and other friends, saying "I don't know what happens now, and that's alrite [sic]. I don't have any secrets I need kept anymore...I feel like a free man."

Ocean became one of the first major African-American music artists to announce that he had fallen in love with someone of the same sex, notable because the music scene is known for it's homophobia. Members of the hip hop industry generally responded positively to the announcement. Russell Simmons, wrote a congratulatory article in Global Grind saying "Today is a big day for hip-hop. It is a day that will define who we really are. How compassionate will we be? How loving can we be? How inclusive are we? [...] Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear." Other artists who expressed their support included Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Tyler, The Creator also tweeted his support for Ocean, along with other members of OFWGKTA.

In addition to his six Grammy nominations Ocean as been nominated for Outstanding Music Artist at the upcoming GLAAD Media Awards.

12 comments:

Special K said...

Did anyone check the horn section of Mumford & Sons to see if Jake didn't sneak in to play with them for the Grammy's? :D

prairiegirl said...

I couldn't see, Special. My line of visions was totally blocked by the youngster on the organ who kept banging his head like Angus Young. Geez.

prairiegirl said...

I mean my line of vision. lol. Fingers going a little too fast.

Do you get the feeling that Alicia Keyes is on this big push to go mainstream? All of a sudden, she's everywhere. She's always been around but she hasn't been relevant for quite awhile, having disappeared to have her baby and get married. Now she gets a high profile singing gig on stage with Adam Levine.

Just is interesting to me.

Jersey Tom said...

I sure hope Frank wins some grammys tonight. I love alicia Keyes.She sure ha had her own gay rumors.

Jersey Tom said...

No tv till tomorrow. I am missing the show. Damn

Cloud 9 said...

What a great Spotlight!

Lonny said...

Russell Simmons, wrote a congratulatory article in Global Grind saying "Today is a big day for hip-hop. It is a day that will define who we really are. How compassionate will we be? How loving can we be? How inclusive are we?

Sadly, if you read comments on any website aimed at the African American community you'll see there is still a zero tolerance rate for black gay men, including Frank Ocean. Damn shame.

the real m said...

Thanks for the great spotlight. I've bean hearing about Frank Ocean for a while now but did not know much about him.

prairiegirl said...

Great Spotlight. I didn't know anything about him either. Loved how he earned money to get recording time. I hope he can open a few doors in the music industry and encourage others to be open by example.

And Don Henley needs to pull the needle out of his butt and instead be flattered by the attention. That guy is a crank if I ever saw one. Geez.

Jersey Tom said...

I did not know the Pope could resign.
Wow!

AUS10 said...

I have finished shooting Parkland. One of the most powerful experiences I've had on a movie. Very sad to walk away.

1:39 PM - 11 Feb 13 · Details

prairiegirl said...

Boys, boys, boys......


SIGH.