At the start of this year, no one knew about Frank Ocean. Then in February his mix tape Nostalgia, Ultra started getting passed around like HPV (one in two people got that joint). As winter turned to spring, we started to get a face to put to the name (née Christopher Breaux). In June, we got the first official video for “Novacane”, which teased as much as it satisfied. The Watch The Throne co-sign made it official: We have a rising star on our hands. And today we get the video for the second single, “Swim Good."
“Swim Good” is one of the heaters that made his mixtape a must-peep, and it's a song for which, upon listening, you immediately see the video rolling in your mind: “That’s a pretty big trunk on my Lincoln town car, ain’t it?” is the first line of the song. Things get more vivid from there: “Now I’m driving around the boulevard, trunk bleeding." The cops pull him over. He’s got this black suit on. Five more miles until the road runs out. I’m so ready for the R&B Thelma and Louise payoff, Frank! “One more mile 'til the road runs out...”
But none of this is in the video. Correction: None of this is in the video in a way that makes sense or adds anything the song. Instead of the Lincoln town car funeral aesthetic, we get an orange stretch limousine. Instead of the narrative about a dude in funeral garb with bleeding hearts in his trunk, we get some sort of orange-ninja flip of Kanye's "Flashing Lights” video. All made even more incoherent with shots of the ocean and “the girl” strewn throughout, with the unsophisticated touch of someone's "My First iMovie," and packing the emotional resonance of stock photos taken off the web. About the only thing that makes sense is the initial bumper of Ocean watching a screen with a panda mask covering his face, unable to put popcorn in his mouth but trying to do so anyways (at least the panda's his “thing”).
We know from "Novacane," and the crew he rolls with, that Frank Ocean is a creative dude who probably wants to push the envelope with his visuals. But this is a case where the artistic license should have been revoked. "Swim Good" is an awesome song, but the video’s trying too hard and drowning for the effort.