Controlling The Narrative – Why Frank Ocean Never Performs

As many dedicated Frank Ocean fans speculated, the world-renowned contemporary RnB artist bailed on weekend two of Coachella 2023. Frank’s infamous absence from the public eye began after he ditched his restrictive music label several years back. 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?

Whether an artist has actively chosen the status of fame or simply acquired it, most are not prepared for the reality of fame itself. From the perspective of the general public, looking in from the outside is easy. We see a regular run-of-the-mill person, like us, gaining immense popularity throughout the media. Their former life becomes obsolete. From the conception of their stardom all that is seen is their “public figure” status; a fabricated sense of this certain individual. With the rise of social media platforms that made tabloids irrelevant, the importance of continuous overstimulation to maintain public status has become a necessity.

More and more celebrities have decided to pull back from interviews, meet and greets, regular continuous releases, shows and even record labels as a whole. Celebrities have become tired of what Daft Punk so famously called the “star system”. 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.

Controlling The Narrative - Why Frank Ocean Never Performs
©GQ Staff

Sia famously pushed this agenda in her “My Anti-Fame Manifesto”. The “Chandelier” singer may have started unmasked but soon after switched to hiding her identity behind large wigs and even paper bags as seen in the manifesto. “If anyone besides famous people knew what it was like to be a famous person, they would never want to be famous. Imagine the stereotypical highly opinionated, completely uninformed mother-in-law character and apply it to every teenager with a computer in the entire world. Then add in all bored people, as well as people whose job it is to report on celebrities. Then, picture that creature, that force, criticizing you for an hour straight once a day, every day, day after day.”

So, in regards to Frank Ocean’s “masked identity” tendencies, as the audience viewing the public figure, we have no right to force spotlight responsibility onto artists. As the ‘new generations’ who are bringing about conversations and concepts that have never before been considered or discussed, it is our responsibility to allow the breach of social standards and that inevitably includes the outdated concept of fame. Celebrities no longer have to rely on “the man” to establish fame. Though not signing to a label for example, delays the potential of overnight fame, and independence requires much more “out of pocket” expenses, the control is slowly returning to the original owners; the artists.

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