by Julia Vaccarella ’20 A&E Staff
Back in 2016, Frank Ocean released Blonde, which quickly evolved into one of the most well-received R&B albums of the decade. As successful as the record was, he has yet to release another full-length album in the years since. Recently, though, Ocean broke the silence with the surprise debut of two new singles: “DHL” and “In My Room.”
Although Ocean has not been as focused on producing new music in the past few years, he has certainly remained active in the entertainment industry. His most noteworthy contribution comes from his Beats 1 radio show, which is conveniently titled Blonded Radio.
Blonded Radio originally aired in February 2017 and concluded in December 2018. However, the show resumed again this month, a strategic move to promote Ocean’s new music. Two of the episodes that have aired this year have focused on addressing one of the two recent singles.
Ocean is also engaging in causes that go beyond the music industry. Since his coming out in 2012, Ocean has been regarded by fans as an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. On Oct. 17 he sponsored an event entitled PrEP+, a club night in New York City. Ocean once again appeared under the mystery of the Blonded brand, which funded the entire event. The event title fits accordingly with the HIV prevention drug of the same name.
Artists throughout the entertainment industry have repeatedly identified themselves as supporters of causes important to them. Advocacy of this type is particularly fitting for a figure like Ocean, especially considering that he has consistently presented himself as someone who is not afraid to be his true self.
According to Rolling Stone, this event was “the first in a series of club nights dedicated to creating a safe space for people to meet and dance” whilst also featuring “globally celebrated DJs.” The premise of the event was to reimagine what the 1980s would have been like had the drug PrEP been accessible at that time.
In response to the event, Ocean encountered significant criticism. Critics argued that the event attempted to alter an important part of history for the LGBTQ+ community. Others alternatively speculated that this move was a mere public relations stunt to heighten Ocean’s status and get him back into the press.
Ocean discredited both rumors entirely, as it has been implied that he has personal experience with and knowledge of the drug. In addition to acclaiming that the event was “funded by Blonded, independently,” Pitchfork quoted him as saying, “I’m an artist, it’s core to my job to imagine realities that don’t necessarily exist and it’s a joy to.”
Regardless of Ocean’s intentions in planning the invite-only event in New York, it is evident that he is still active both in and out of the music world. In response to the two new singles, there has been much discussion about the possibility of a full-length album in the works. While nothing has been confirmed, Ocean’s increase in recent activity would certainly suggest it.