Frank Ocean’s Coachella Headliner Was a Lackluster Comeback That Stretched Celebrity Boundaries

Frank Ocean has always wanted to be able to do whatever he wants. In many ways, he is one of the best artists of our time because of how hard he tries to be free in his work and his life. But on Sunday, his Coachella fans were hurt as a result.

From the moment Ocean’s long-awaited show, his first since 2017, was set to start, it seemed like he was trying to see how much he could get away with.

The quiet star showed up on the main stage almost an hour after he or she was supposed to. When the show finally started, a line of guys in hoodies silently marched back and forth in front of the crowd. We had to try to figure out who he could be Ocean or if he was even there.

The stage had been turned into a single big screen. The microphones and keyboards on Ocean’s set were hidden in a small space at the back, like a cave inside the LED show. Except for a few lucky fans in the first few rows, most of the crowd couldn’t see Ocean and his band. When the camera did show him, it was usually the back of his head or shadows on his face.

When Ocean’s face was shown on the big screen for the first time, people screamed and yelled, “Frank! Frank! Frank!”

Right away, it seemed like Ocean was either pushing the limits, like he was putting on a performance art piece to see how much we loved him, or he was just playing. It was impossible to tell the difference, which is often the case with minds who are hard to find.

After almost 10 minutes, he finally played his first song, which was a shortened remix of “Novacane.” He then went on to perform a little-known, unreleased track that was first played on Blonded Radio two years ago. It was a meditative piano ballad that almost no one in the crowd would know, let alone know the words to.

The show kept going in this way, giving the crowd hints and glimpses of what was to come. Ocean would leave the stage for long periods of time, letting the camera focus on DJ Crystalmess or New Orleans bounce singer Ha Sizzle, who was dressed as an enthusiastic security guard. Ocean changed his popular songs’ arrangements, tempos, and melodies, making it impossible for the crowd to sing along.

What should a musician do for his fans? Nothing is the most honest answer. But there is a sacred bond between the artist and the crowd that I and many others would call important.

When a relationship is taken for granted or pushed to its limits, it’s always a good idea to look at how it works.

It’s tempting to say that Ocean’s show was a grand artistic vision too deep for the average crowd to understand, but I think that gives him too much credit. It’s just more painful to realize that the person you look up to probably doesn’t even know you exist.