You were lied to–we all were. Frank Ocean promised an album in July, and as the days of that doomed month ticked by, our anxiety grew. August passed by without even a word from Ocean, and deep worry began to set in. Now, on the verge of winter, more than three months after the slated release date, we are still without the sequel to /Channel Orange/. We are all victims and we are all suffering. We here at Tastemakers understand your anguish. So with that, we present a guide to navigating the five stages of Frank Ocean grief, complete with an album that actually came out this year to get you through each stage.
- DENIAL – “It can only be a matter of time, right? It’s dropping any day now, no doubt.”
The number of fans in this stage is dwindling by the day, but they are still out there. Buoyed by a false dream that Frank Ocean is just playing a fun little waiting game, the griever in denial is defined by an inexplicable sense of hope. They wake up every morning and check the “New Releases” section on Spotify to no avail, and begin their day disappointed. But as the day goes on, they deceive themselves and cling to their preferred alternate reality.
Small Talk by rising British pop and R&B singer MNEK is the ideal companion for this stage in the process. Short and sweet at six songs, this EP mixes beautiful vocals with danceable beats, perfect for a listener looking for something to keep them distracted and happy in this dark, empty world. “Suddenly” is the most similar sonically to Ocean, but “More Than A Miracle” is the highlight. And coincidentally, that’s what an album release from Ocean would require.
- ANGER – “WHAT IS HAPPENING? WHY HAVE I BEEN HURT? HOW CAN I RELEASE ALL THIS DEEP RAGE?”
Once out of denial, the griever is filled with the anger of a jilted lover, and understandably so. Numerous questions fly through the head of the fan, from “Why me?” to “Who can I lash out at to feel better about myself?” The trust has been broken, and the victim spurns the very idea of Ocean’s music. Ocean is dead to them, at least for the time being.
Who better to turn to in this situation than rival and (maybe) mortal enemy Miguel? There is no better way to lash out at Ocean than listening to the R&B artist he has notoriously feuded with, and Miguel’s Wildheart is an easy transition. Raw and crackling with energy, Wildheart is an exercise in passion and emotion. With heavy usage of electric guitars and wailing vocals, this can make you forget all about the Liar-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. “Coffee” is the most popular and catchy song, but “Leaves” and “What’s Normal Anyway” are the ones you don’t want to miss.
- BARGAINING – “Maybe if I stay in my bed and cry long enough the album will come out.”
This stage is all about figuring out ways to avoid the inevitable. The bargaining griever will search for any way to escape the unavoidable, including finding other artists remotely similar to Ocean and pretending they are him. In some ways, this is the saddest stage because the sheer desperation of the listener is so apparent.
The Ocean fan will definitely want to turn to Elijah Blake’s album Shadows and Diamonds for this stage. The unheralded secret weapon of the R&B world, Blake takes mellow lyrics and lays them over original and incredibly appealing beats to create one of the most slept-on R&B albums of 2015. And when his voice goes high, and if you separate yourself from reality just enough it almost feels like Ocean himself. Who needs Frank when you have someone who sounds like him and doesn’t tear your heart out?
- DEPRESSION – “I could go outside, but I know the rest of the world is going to disappoint me just like Frank Ocean did.”
If the listener is in this stage, it may take a while for them exit. Characterized by an overwhelming sense of despair and a refusal to stop listening to all of Ocean’s library on shuffle while eating sleeves of Oreos, most in this stage would prefer to sit inside and wallow in their misery.
The best aide for this stage in the grieving process is You Should Be Here by Kehlani. Long enough to last many crying sessions, Kehlani brings a gentle but simultaneously assertive sound to the music world, while maintaining that smooth traditional R&B sound. Plus, Chance the Rapper and BJ the Chicago Kid make some perfectly incorporated guest appearances. The title is also exceptionally appropriate to the griever’s main wish.
- ACCEPTANCE – “I will be cold and decomposing in my grave before Frank Ocean releases anything.”
Look. It’s not happening. No album is coming out, no single is coming out, and Ocean will probably never again say a word to the public. So might as well get used to the idea of finding another artist to fill the void. The listener in this stage can be identified by an eerie sense of content unknown to the rest of Ocean’s fan base.
Bryson Tiller is the answer here. No one can fill Frank Ocean’s shoes, but listening to /T R A P S O U L/ will quickly make anyone forget about Ocean, at least for a while. The album name serves as both a title and the name of a completely different genre of music, where Tiller flips from crooning to rapping multiple times without a hitch. “Don’t” is the star of the album, but almost every song on the work is unique and above average. And once the listener has finished all 14 songs, the process is complete. The grieving is over. Thank us later.
Originally published in Tastemakers Music Magazine