Monday, July 11, 2011

July 11 - There Will Be Tears

Frank Ocean buzzed at the same time I was high on The Weeknd (pun intended). So I overlooked Ocean for awhile, but I'm starting to really catch on to his awesomely-titled Nostalgia, Ultra mixtape. What's got me hooked most is the Mr. Hudson-sampled "There Will Be Tears."

Sonically, "Tears" has the blips and beeps of The Postal Service and a generic bass kick. Despite what begins as borderline schmaltz--sounding dangerously close to something Owl City would defecate (erhm, produce)--Ocean delivers a heartfelt narrative appropriate for the track's near-excessive display of emotion:

My grandaddy was a player
Pretty boy in a pair of gators
See i met him later on
Think it was 1991
The only dad i'd ever know
But pretty soon he'd be gone, too.
Hide my face, hide my face,
Can't let em see me crying
Cause these boys didn't have no fathers neither
And they weren't crying.
My friend said it wasn't so bad
You can't miss what you ain't had,
Well i can,
I'm sad.

Coming from a guy who's friends with the maniacal rapper Tyler the Creator, Ocean's confessions make him an endearing figure; it's hard not to imagine a younger Ocean emoting to a stolid Tyler and finding little solace. For a sampled track, Ocean culled the perfect sound; the hisses of static capture the feeling of discord (a literal loss of harmony), while the instrumentals subtly fluctuate, beginning with woeful, auto-tuned gargles, then morphing into an up-tempo, triumphant beat only to regress into sadness, as Ocean's voice veers the song back into his melancholic past. The song's dynamics portray the real dynamics of loss: the initial despair, the eventual acceptance, and, for Ocean, the ultimate inability to cope -- unlike his friends, he still yearns for his absent father. The heart-wrenching conclusion to the song, particularly the way Ocean emphasizes himself ("me") in the language of a child, emphasizes a cycle of mourning, blaming the far past for his current feelings:

Why couldn't you say to me
You won't be there.
You could've warned me
You wouldn't be here.
Right here.
You wouldn't be here for me.

What's most amazing is the song's catchiness; few artists can so successfully twist a melancholic confessional into immaculate pop (Phoenix first comes to mind). "Tears" breaks your heart but beckons you to listen again. Some might call that swag, others soul, but one thing's for sure: Ocean has a songwriter's craft for storytelling, and there's no finer proof than "There Will Be Tears."

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