Matson on Music
Summer of Frank Ocean: 'Sweet Life'
Frank Ocean's "Channel Orange" is the summer album of 2012 — a low-key stroke of genius from the Los Angeles-via-New Orleans R&B singer-songwriter, making headlines for bringing man/man romance into pop R&B. But it's deeper than that. I'm blogging about each song individually, in order. Sorry but Internet Explorer does not support the full album stream below.
"Sweet Life" is when "Channel Orange" starts developing its uncomfortable conscience about class and money. Partly Frank Ocean's narrator hangs out with rich people getting intoxicated by the pool in Ladera Heights in Los Angeles, "the black Beverly Hills." But partly he is not there at all, lost in thought about the ways people don't connect with each other. There is a pronounced "those people" vibe to the song, a judge-y quality. But he is those people, to a degree, since he's there, and he knows it. The self-indictment is subtly clear when he belts out the chorus about having maids and landscapers for your whole life, but instead of being a tribute to those workers, it's a lament about how a luxurious lifestyle can be its own enclosure. One lyric toward the end foreshadows bad times: "The water is exactly what I wanted, it's everything I wanted it to be, but this neighborhood is getting trippier every day, this neighborhood is going ape [explicit] crazy."