4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide. Most of the day I’d see him, and his smile. I’d hear his conversation and his silence ... until it was time to sleep. Sleep I would often share with him. By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping, no negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love. It would change my life [...]
Before writing this I’d told some people my story. I’m sure these people kept me alive, kept me safe. Sincerely, these are the folks I wanna thank from the floor of my heart [...] To my first love, I’m grateful for you. Grateful that even thought it wasn’t what I hoped for and even thought it was never enough, it was. Some things never are. And we were. I won’t forget you. I won’t forget the summer. I’ll remember who I was when I met you. I’ll remember who you were and how we’ve both changed and stayed the same. I’ve never had more respect for life and living than I have right now. Maybe it takes a near death experience to feel alive. Thanks. To my mother. You raised me strong. I know I’m only brave because you were first. So thank you. All of you. For everything good. I feel like a free man. [...]
There’s something about the quiet ones. In R&B, it’s not the brash who you need to keep an eye on — they do all the work for you. Marvin Gaye. Sam Cooke. Luther Vandross. D’Angelo. They danced quietly. Despite his broad smile and honeysuckle voice, Gaye was as tortured as any popular artist ever — read David Ritz’s essential biography Divided Soul if you want to learn about his abusive childhood, his psychosexual demons, his divorces, his pained love, his murder at the hands of his father. Cooke was murdered, too, after years of scorn from the church that raised him for turning to secular music. The butter-soft Luther Vandross famously withheld from public conversation about his sexuality and was occasionally attacked as a coward. At one point, D’Angelo was one of the world’s purest specimens, Adonis-like and gifted with the voice of an amnesiac angel. He’s spent the last decade in the wind, negotiating his fame, physique, and place in music. He’s back now. It’s an interesting time for him to return, because he has company.
The logical successor to the Quiet One mantle is Frank Ocean, the R&B singer-songwriter and writer-for-hire who emerged from Odd Future’s snarling alien spore like a winged dove, a splash of light in a pile of slop and anarchic terror. His membership is by design, a salve to the mayhem. Fourteen months ago, he released Nostalgia, Ultra, a slithering, earnest mixtape hybrid compiling songs he’d recorded for his in-limbo Def Jam debut, as well as cheekily straight reinterpretations of songs by Coldplay, MGMT, and the Eagles(!). It sampled Nicole Kidman’s weed-induced speech from Eyes Wide Shut about the paradox of gender, love, and sex. It was the most interesting thing that happened in R&B that year, but mostly because it came out of nowhere, revealing a guy so in control of his progressive commercial R&B shtick, he almost seemed like the product of intelligent design — a splice of DNA from a blogger test tube. “Feeling like Adam when he first found out this existed,” he sang on “Nature Feels.” That about summed it up.
The singer, occasional rapper, and eldest member of hip-hop angst collective Odd Future (OFWGKTA), Frank Ocean, released a song this past Friday, titled "Pyramids," from his highly anticipated debut album Channel Orange.
A few things about this song:
It's very clever. So clever, in fact, that all of the following are referenced, alluded to, or explicitly stated in the lyrics: Cleopatra, Mark Antony, the Pyramids, Samson, Isis, the skin complexion and controversial ancestral history of Egyptians, mummification, the Battle of Actium, Adam and Eve, Ra, The Luxor Las Vegas, pimps, prostitutes, and motel rooms with only VHS players.
There will be an unusual spike in births in about nine months. Am I saying this song might cause pregnancy? No. I'm saying this song definitely causes pregnancy.
This song is very good. Regardless of the genre, it's one of the better sung songs I've heard in quite some time.
All of these aspects of "Pyramids" are important as far as its staying power, but none of them are what stood out the most. What did?