From Blonde to Blondie, Frank Ocean’s New Song ‘Provider’ Is As Wavy As Ever
It actually wasn’t that long ago when social media was buried in memes and jokes about Frank Ocean. I for one was, ready to wait until my old age for a follow-up album to the impressive Channel Orange. I mean the complete radio silence aside from cryptic hints and the excruciatingly short ‘Franks Track’ on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo, made Frank fans, myself included, very agitated. That’s now a distant memory, the two masterpiece albums Blonde, Endless and songs and features ranging from Lens, Chanel, Biking and collabs with the Asap Mob, Tyler the Creator and Calvin Harris to his very own Apple Music Segment Blonded Radio have proved that. Provider is just the newest release and it maintains the clever wordplay, interwoven talk-singing voice and tactical autotune that Ocean does so well.
The music video for Provider, which dropped simultaneously with the song on Ocean’s website, was a surreal, uncanny experience that showed Frank Ocean’s unique ability to meld a childish sense of humour with abstract concepts to create tongue-in-cheek art. The video displayed the visual artist Tom Sachs in his workshop obtaining an old-school boombox and curiously making a few modifications, one of which was the additons of a machete of all things and the attaching of enormaous speakers. The DIY effect had an Endless feel, the visual album that Ocean released, and was topped off to comical effect with a Hello Kitty avatar bouncing across the lyrics displayed on the bottom of the screen.
Provider isn’t a regular Frank Ocean track, while incorporating elements of familiar musical territory I found there was yet some aspects of innovation and progress as an artist. One point of difference with usual, if that term can ever be applied to Ocean’s music, was the use of the trap beat in background for some of its duration gave it an interesting vibe alongside the soft slow repetitive chorus of ‘feelings you provide, feelings you provide I know it, I know it, the feelings…’ Also, the track uses a lot of pitch-correction to create a new distinctly inhuman sound. If I’m honest, much in the way that Lens, his previous release, had many features going on at the same time, I do think it does spoil a bit of Frank’s appeal as his raw vocals are extraordinary.
I was really feeling Provider for my first few listens and not just sonically, lyrically the song delivers a hearty message about personal growth, change, love, and maturity. The song dives deep into abstract lyricism as soon as it begins, with the first verse discussing his new status and position in life. He feels alone to an extent, still on the “night loops” which could possibly refer to his love of cars and late-night drives or cabs. Driving at night is the best time to think and for a character like Frank Ocean who has achieved massive critical acclaim and praise despite only winning two Grammys and being nominated for 6, it provides a chance to evaluate one’s life and surroundings, thus “Trophy case still light, body need a race stripe…new man comin’ up ahead on his own two, is you a natural blondie like Goku?” Goku is a powerful, alien warrior who defends Earth from threats from across the galaxy and one of his abilities, is the strengthened Super Saiyan form where his black hair becomes gold. Could Ocean be questioning the intentions of those who claim to understand him?
Blonde and Endless showed us a new side to Frank, a completely different artist to the one who gave us Channel Orange and understandably some fans, lovers and friends may question his decisions but ultimately no one can see the true him, just as it is theorised by some that Stanley Kubrick, the famous movie director in the 60s who made A Clockwork Orange, actually faked the moon landing no one can know. What Ocean wants to see is if his fans and friends and particularly, his lovers can show ‘the wisdom in your movement’, and match the personal and sexual growth that he himself has undergone.
The second verse is Ocean coming to terms with his various insecurities, from feeling used, pondering family and fatherhood, drug use, watching his friends transform from ordinary life to superstardom and religious concerns. Despite his mother’s very good advice on Be Yourself on Blonde, to not become a ‘sluggish, lazy, stupid and unconcerned,’ ‘weedhead’, he’s still patting his ‘Patagonia pockets. Tryna find my zip.’ No matter how cool-headed a person is, fame and fortune have a transformative effect on someone and drugs, especially marijuana can be an important form of escapism from the hectic hustle and bustle of life in showbusiness. However, Ocean has witnessed friends ‘go pro through fisheye lens, drownin’ off clear…just saw JAWS, divin’ under influence.’ Here a clear double meaning to clear is used, rather than the clear of water, they’re drowning of the clear of vodka and alcoholism and like the classic movie JAWS, being in the ocean while not in your correct senses is a big no-no.
Though it sounds counter-intuitive, it is not easy to be famous or otherwise immensely successful. All at once, the pressures of fame and money can create a new burden by transforming what one knows and understands into an alien environment. Provider is a beautiful song that highlights how Ocean feels ‘the Lord just out of reach for’ him. Is that because his new lifestyle surrounds him with vice and sin? Is it because his sexuality complicates the nature of his faith? Or is because Frank Ocean is an ordinary man with extraordinary talent who just wants the world to know him for him.
The real him.
Let us know what you think down below !
Written by Tito Mogaji-Williams.@UnorthodoxTito