Controlling The Narrative – Why Frank Ocean Never Performs

Frank Ocean’s Coachella Absence: The Complexities of Fame and Fan Expectations

Speculations of Frank Ocean’s absence during weekend two of Coachella 2023, a festival eagerly anticipated by dedicated fans, left a void that was hard to fill. His retreat from the public eye since leaving his music label years ago sparked a debate on the extent to which artists should cater to public expectations. This article delves into the complexities of fame, the changing dynamics of the star system, and the artist’s role in controlling their own narrative. Many Coachella attendees came to the 2023 festival solely to witness a once-in-a-lifetime performance from Ocean. Unfortunately, the long-anticipated performance resulted in a massive financial loss for the festival and disappointed fans due to his apparent ankle injury. But does Frank have to please the general public? Or have his disappearance acts become reckless?

The Burden of Fame and Public Perception

From an outsider’s perspective, the allure of fame appears glamorous, but the reality for artists is often more complex. Fame reshapes their lives, leaving behind the person they were before, as they navigate the world as “public figures.” In the era of social media dominance, the need for constant engagement and stimulation to maintain public status has become paramount.

The Rise of Artist Disappearances and Authenticity

Increasingly, celebrities are choosing to step back from the limelight, foregoing interviews, meet and greets, frequent releases, and even record labels. Rejecting what Daft Punk called the “star system,” artists like Thomas Bangalter emphasize the importance of focusing on the music and separating the private and public personas. By creating an artificial image or adopting anonymity, artists regain control over their narrative and shift the attention back to their art. Thomas Bangalter, one of the two masked artists of the group, mentioned the reasoning behind hiding their true identity: “We don’t believe in a star system […] We want the focus to be on the music. If we have to create an image, it must be an artificial image. That combination hides our physicality and also shows our view of the star system. It is not a compromise. We’re trying to separate the private side and the public side.” The artists’ strategy of masking themself in the public eye shifts focus from appearance to the art, keeping the narrative in their control. Although one could say, ‘just don’t be famous’ believing it’s as simple as that shows how unaware the public truly is.

The Unseen Toll of Fame

Sia’s famous “My Anti-Fame Manifesto” sheds light on the toll of fame, urging people to reconsider their desire for celebrity status. She emphasizes the constant criticism, unwarranted opinions, and invasive media coverage that celebrities face daily. Artists like Frank Ocean, who choose to maintain a “masked identity,” deserve the freedom to protect their privacy and shield themselves from the relentless scrutiny.

Redefining Fame and Artist Autonomy

As society evolves, new generations challenge established norms, including the outdated concept of fame. With the democratization of platforms and the ability to establish independent fame, artists can reclaim control over their careers. While this may delay overnight success and require greater personal investment, it empowers artists to shape their own destinies.

Fan Expectations and the Disappointment Factor

While artists like Frank Ocean have no inherent obligation to fulfill fan expectations, disappointing loyal followers by canceling shows and maintaining prolonged absences can erode trust and label an artist as unreliable. Despite artistic integrity playing a role, it is essential to balance personal autonomy with an understanding of the fans’ desire to witness their favorite artists perform.

Nevertheless, even though Frank Ocean has zero legitimate fame responsibilities, letting down your fans by not only being an hour late but canceling the next show after not having performed for years is still extremely disappointing. At that point it has little to do with artistic integrity. It just makes him flaky and even somewhat irresponsible. No one can be forced to do anything and maybe the injury is real. However, give your loyal fans at least one good performance in 6 years.

Co-written by Jonathan Jaffrey

**Header image: Andy Abeyta/ “The Desert Sun”/ USA TODAY NETWORK/ Imagn