Frank Ocean performed at Coachella’s first weekend

Sometimes life is about managing expectations. In any situation, it’s crucial to understand what you are getting out of something. 

No state of affairs has ever been more pertinent to that mindset than the Frank Ocean situation that occurred on Coachella’s first weekend.

For context, Ocean performed on April 16 — the first Coachella Sunday. This dates all the way back to 2020, when Ocean was originally slated to perform; however, due to COVID-19, and the abrupt passing of Ocean’s younger brother, Ryan Breaux, Ocean dropped out. Coachella co-founder Paul Tollett believed Ocean would be the headliner in 2023, and this was solidified back in 2022.

Fans of Ocean were ecstatic to hear the news and many believed that with the announcement of the musician headlining Coachella 2023, his seven-year hiatus from releasing albums would end. With Coachella’s second weekend coming to a close on April 23, Ocean performed once and subsequently dropped out of the second weekend due to an apparent ankle injury. Ocean’s performance has garnered a plethora of negative reviews from fans and critics alike, who — like everyone else who is a fan of the singer — just wanted to see him live for the first time in years.

Ocean’s performance consisted of him behind a massive screen that was projected into the audience, performing a multitude of remixes and demos of some of his classic songs. Some of his performance was him simply dancing along as a DJ chopped up his setlist. Many fans couldn’t see the stage at all. Needless to say, it is a hard time to be a Ocean fan. But, what a lot of fans aren’t taking into account is that Ocean is not a performer, nor has he ever claimed to be one. 

If Ocean had gotten up on stage, and for an hour and a half performed banger after banger, every one of his best songs — “Nights” then “White Ferrari” then “Pyramids” then “Pink + White” — that probably would have been more surprising then what he actually did. Ocean, who hasn’t released an album in seven years after putting out one of the best albums of this century, is going to come out for two hours and perform normally? I don’t think so.

Does this mean Ocean should be acting entitled and giving fans a desultory performance? No, but being shocked at the fact that Ocean, of all people, gave us a weird, atypical performance makes no sense whatsoever.

Ocean, although beloved and revered, tends to be a divisive figure in regard to his presence in the mainstream space and the lack of awareness for his fanbase. He will release an album that’s heavily praised by fans and critics, and will then go dark for years at a time. 

That’s why this performance — something that was apparently years in the making — was such a momentous occasion for every Ocean fan. People were traveling from all around the world to see him, and he gave a half-hearted performance. He might as well have put the show off another year, or performed at a festival that is more his speed, like Lollapalooza or Outside Lands.

Not many musicians can stay quiet for years without releasing studio albums and stay as relevant as Ocean does. Sometimes, it’s as though he forgets that. The musician has his own life, and obviously he’s been dealing with a lot over the last half  decade, but he needs to remember that he has cultivated this fanbase that will do anything to hear his music, and will support him through thick and thin. This parasocial relationship fans have with Ocean should be a two way street, and although Ocean doesn’t typically reciprocate the love, his fans are still riding for him.

Again, managing expectations is necessary when it comes to artists.

Ocean rose to stardom, not simply because of his stellar musicianship, but because of his compelling public persona, and now fans are seeming to forget that? Ocean shouldn’t have performed if he didn’t feel ready, obviously, and he probably should have been more prepared, but in now way should any fans of Ocean feel scorned or betrayed. This is who he is. Ocean is really just not really a performer, and that’s okay.

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